A herd of Northwest Arkansas youth talent competed in the 2023 USA Cycling Mountain Biking Nationals at Bear Mountain Resort (Macungie, Penn.) earlier this month. Coaches and parents of these athletes submitted excerpts of their athletes’ experiences racing nationals.

OZ Development Team

Preston on the podium

Photo courtesy of Jen Ronck

OZ Development Team athlete Preston Ronck set his goals for Nationals high this year as he hoped to take home the USA Cycling National Champion title for BOTH road and mountain bike. After suffering a broken hand in February, he worked hard on the trainer to stay ahead of the game. In June, Preston competed for the first time in the USA Cycling Road National Championship. He captured the national title after outwitting and outracing his components when he exploded on the last climb and didn’t stop until he crossed the finish line as the National Champion.

He focused his training on preparing for USA Cycling National Mountain Bike Races in both short track and cross country. Preston‘s first race was in short track where he again successfully won his second national title. Next, Preston dominated in the cross country mountain bike race, where, after crashing during his second lap, he was still able to get up and fight back to again cross the finish line, winning his THIRD NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE for the summer! 

Isaac racing on course.

Photo courtesy of Randall Anzalone

Isaac Anzalone was in the UCI 17-18 men field. Having no UCI mountain bike points and an unlucky crash in the beginning put him in the very back of the pack of the 120 people race but was able to claw his way back up the harsh course onto a mid-80s position.

Buffalo Development Team

Park raced the 13/14 category and placed 9th out of 57 racers. Nationals has always been a humbling experience for him (this is his third time). He appreciates getting the opportunity to race some of the most talented mountain bikers in the nation. He continues to grow and stay motivated!

Marshall on course.

Photo courtesy of Amy Davis

Marshall raced in the 15/16 category. He was caught behind a crash in the beginning of the XC qualifier, so he had to play catch up most of the race. He passed enough riders to qualify for finals, where – despite suffering severe leg cramps – he finished 49th, which is an automatic guaranteed spot in next year’s finals! After a rest day, it was time to wake up at 4:30 a.m. on Sunday for the short track qualifier. After getting stuck behind yet another crash, he and an OZ Development Team rider teamed up and rode 3/4 of the laps together trying to claw back to the pack. Marshall finished in the last qualifying spot; then, only after a downpour and race delay did the finals round begin. It was like riding through frozen peanut butter – your tires just didn’t have anything to grip. While other riders were pulled, Marshall was able to maintain pace and finish 73rd.

Isa Wester-Rivera with her medal.

Photo courtesy of Kirk Wester-Rivera

This year Isa competed for the first time in the 15-16 category of the Puerto Rico National Championships. Having raced in two UCI-sanctioned races earlier in the year on the US Commonwealth as preparation, she went in ready to make her mark. Against a strong contingent of riders, she quickly got into a break of three riders, trading leads during the first half and then leading for 3/4 of the second half until one of the girls took the lead during a technical descent. The lead racer quickly got a 20-second lead, leaving Isa full throttle to catch up. Then the racer behind her made a move, and the two of them sprinted for the finish, getting nudged out of second by half a bike length, ultimately taking a strong 3rd place finish. This was the first time she had an opportunity to race at this level in the country of her mother’s birth, and the thing she remembered most was how strong the girls were and how powerful it was to line up, for the first time, with a field of girls that all looked like her, all speaking in her home language of Spanish. She is already working toward next year.

Bike School Bentonville

The Bike School Academy Team made the decision to travel to Pennsylvania mid-year to see where our athletes stand after a year racing multiple disciplines and finding each Athlete’s passion on the bike. The team does not focus on just one discipline or event, but focuses on growing and learning as individuals to be prepared for what path they choose. We have had a wonderful and fun year so far, and are ecstatic with how Nationals went as we brought home a lot of experience, memories, and some solid results. 

Having only been mountain biking for 2 years, Cambria has quickly picked up the sport. She focuses on being in the moment and striving for improvement race by race. Competing at Nationals was an experience Cambria will never forget. 

Dylan with Bike School Bentonville racing his mountain bike.

Photo courtesy of Bike School Bentonville

Dylan has recently made the decision to transfer from very competitive running to focusing more on the bike. This year was his 2nd time racing National Championships. He finished 4th in his qualifying race, providing him with a front row start for the Championship Race. Dylan fought through the mud and tough course conditions bringing home a 7th place overall out of 75 racers in the Boys 15/16 Category. 

Maddy with Bike School Bentonville racing her mountain bike.

Photo courtesy of Bike School Bentonville

Maddy lined up this year at Nationals fully prepared to gain experience and get the feel for future years as she has had a rough year with a couple injuries and illnesses. She is quite the fighter though, getting a basically last place call up every day Maddie fought hard to the finish line. She passed people constantly in her race fighting her way to mid pack and a top 25 finish. 

This was Ryan’s first year racing MTB National Championships. Though he has raced Cyclocross Nationals for several years, lining up day after day to qualify is a different ball game. With hardly any points Ryan qualified for both Championship Races and had a blast ripping around the course in all weather conditions that were thrown our way. 

Bike School Bentonville Coach Chris stands on the top step of the podium. Places 1-5 are on the podium and Chris is in the middle on the top step.

Photo courtesy of Bike School Bentonville

Head Coach Chris Drummond of the Academy Team is so proud of how the team walked away from Nationals for the first year as a team. We have a lot of growing to do, but we are absolutely on the right path to success. He also found the time to snag a 3rd place on the National Podium in his Cross Country Race, and won his Championship Race in his short track race. 

Coach Nat Ross joined the week long trip to support the team as well. He is constantly making history in the cycling world. During this week he lined up for the first ever E-Bike National Championship Race snagging a top 3 podium spot!

The OZ community is proud of these racers for everything they gave at nationals!

Stevie Emmons

After living in Frisco, Texas, for nearly 15 years, Stevie and her husband, Joe, moved to Bentonville in 2021. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of North Texas and has five years of marketing experience in tourism and economic development. Her personal interests include photography, cooking, and all things dog-related. She and her husband spend their free time riding mountain bike trails, watching movies, and enjoying time on the patio at their favorite restaurants.