Local riders dominate NORBA nationals
MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. – The Breckenridge Smiths should be referred to as the mountain biking Smiths. After Debra Strahlo-Smith took third in the women’s 35-plus category at the National Off-Road Biking Association (NORBA) championships, her husband Todd Smith one-upped her by topping the 35-39 men’s expert division’s large field to claim the national championship by 24 seconds.A handful of Summit County riders also made a name for themselves and the county last weekend in Mammoth Lakes, Calif. From the boys 10-and-under division to semipro men, locals shined at the NORBA cross country races, with four Summit residents, including Smith, claiming national championships.
Chris Costa finished first in the expert women’s 25-29 division, while brother and sister Patrick (boys 10-and-under) and Heidi (girls 12-and-under) Gruber also won their age groups.And the list of successful locals didn’t end there. T.J. Fisker took second in the junior expert mountain cross event, while in cross country competition, Kevin Minard (third, sport men’s 35-39), Christian Ball (fourth, men’s semipro), Kevin Kane (second, sport men 16-and-under), 13-year-old Meghan Kane (second, sport women 18-and-under), Andrew Dunlap (second, boys 14-and-under), George Gruber Jr. (second, boys 12-and-under), Tristan White (fourth, boys 12-and-under) and Cullen Moran (eighth, boys 12-and-under) all excelled in sunny but windy conditions.All of the junior-level riders also participate in the Mountain Bike Little League, which is run by Maverick Sports in accordance with the Summit Mountain Challenge series.
To help with travel and entry costs, MTB little league donated a $1,500 scholarship for the 11 athletes that made the trip to California. “We feel it’s an important support for those that want to take the sport to the next level,” Maverick Sports co-owner Jeff Westcott said. “I always try to downplay the competitive side of what we do with the kids in the summer, but there is a competitive side and we thought this would be the perfect way to help those that want to take it to that level.”Kevin Kane, the 14-year-old whose time would’ve placed him third in the 18-and-under division, said most of the successful young riders from Summit can look back on their biking beginnings with the little league. “The Mountain Bike Little League is really the roots for every kid up here,” Kane said. “It starts there in the local races.”
Heidi Gruber said the 16-hour trip to Mammoth doesn’t seem so long now that it’s over and she’s returned to Breckenridge with a national title. “When I look back on it, it was a pretty short drive,” the 12-year old Gruber said. “Some of the way I was pretty nervous, but I wasn’t really nervous until a couple hours before the race.” Heidi Gruber said once the race started, her main goal was to just make it to the finish line without getting injured, like always.”There was actually only one other girl in my category, and she was pretty easy competition,” she said. “I was excited that I won, and glad that I finished with out getting hurt.”
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