High school notebook: Easthampton senior earns silver medal at Cyclocross National Championships

Last modified: Saturday, January 24, 2015

Wet weather and a muddy course rarely faze cyclocross riders.

However, when poor race conditions initially canceled the women’s junior 17-18 race at the Cyclocross National Championships in Austin, Texas, on Jan. 11, Victoria Gates broke down in tears.

“It was really hard because nothing like that had ever happened and we traveled all the way out there for a race and it didn’t seem like were going to get a race,” said Gates, an Easthampton High School senior. “Honestly, I was just so upset.”

Luckily, the race was rescheduled a day later and Gates completed her junior cyclocross career with a silver medal.

“This is really the best-case scenario. I really wanted to go out with bang as a junior,” Gates said. “Everything kind of lined up perfectly for that.”

Returning to the podium, especially given the weekend’s turn of events, was a great relief. Gates took fifth at the 2012 women’s junior 15-16 national championship, and finished sixth in 2013 and 2014.

“It feels amazing to see all your hard work pay off,” Gates said. “I was starting to wonder, at one point, am I ever going to get back on the podium.”

Cyclocross, which is recognized by USA Cycling and international governing bodies, is held on a short, closed-circuit course with obstacles that require riders to occasionally dismount and run with their bikes. Competitors have a set window of time to finish and as riders move through the course, officials will determine how many laps will be completed.

Due to the course conditions, the laps took longer to finish so race organizers capped the race at three laps.

Emma White, of Delanson, New York, won in 35 minutes, 43 seconds. Gates finished 2:09 later in second.

The longer laps were unexpected because the course was dry at the beginning of the weekend, Gates said. But as other divisions competed, conditions deteriorated and lap times lengthened. By the time Gates and the rest of her division took to the course, long stretches were too muddy to ride through, resulting in more running.

The laps “were closer to 12, 13 minutes and that’s a lot longer than any other race I usually do,” she said. “I’m not a very talented runner. It’s not something that I enjoy.”

Nationals marked the end of Gates’ cyclocross season. For her, it also marked the end of riding for JAM Fund, a team sponsored by two-time men’s elite national campion, World Cup racer and Easthampton resident Jeremy Powers.

Gates grew up in Fitchburg, but moved to Southampton last year to be closer to her instructors and training partners with JAM Fund.

On Jan. 14, Gates signed a National Letter of Intent to ride year-round for King University, an NCAA Division II school in Bristol, Tennessee. While the NCAA doesn’t sponsor cycling, similar to men’s rowing, schools can opt to provide their own scholarships and hold athletes to the same standards as the rest of their NCAA athletes.

Since Gates has officially signed with the team, she can now compete in her Tornado uniform this spring. King University has two teams, one that competes in the collegiate division of USA Cycling, and another that competes in non-collegiate division. Gates will join the collegiate team in the fall.

“I decided I would stick to racing for (King) this spring because they have a non-collegiate part of the team, so I’ll be racing whatever I do this spring for them to kind of promote them up here,” Gates said.

King was the first school to actively recruit Gates. Others made attempts, but being a Tornado seemed like the best fit.

“They all had really great programs, but everything about King seemed perfect — it had my marketing degree, it was a liberal arts school, it was small, it had a really good team,” she said. “I’d love to win the DII nationals, which I think is realistic in the next year or two.”

While Gates is primarily focused on collegiate racing for the next few years, her experiences have sparked future thoughts.

“Once I graduate from college, it would be awesome to find a job, but (also) to be able to race professionally for cyclocross,” Gates said. “A lot of the women I’m racing against now, I’m not to far off of and some of them are getting paid to do this through sponsorships.”

HALL OF FAME — Another Hampshire County high school coach is being recognized for their service.

Former Northampton baseball coach Mike Quinlan will be inducted in the Massachusetts Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame on Saturday.

“I’m really honored of course and to a certain extent I’m humbled by it,” Quinlan said. “There are so many great coaches from western Mass. that have gone in previously.”

One of those coaches is former Amherst Regional coach Charlie Abramson, a member of the Class of 1981. Abramson was instrumental in Quinlan’s passion for the game as a youth.

“He really taught the game, taught the fundamentals and made the game fun,” Quinlan said. “I had a great bunch of coaches from him on. ... A whole series of guys that really taught the game and really made it enjoyable.”

Quinlan spent 15 years with the Blue Devils. His tenure included 12 trips to the postseason, nine Suburban League titles, two western Massachusetts trophies and one state runner-up finish in 1993. Quinlan finished with a 189-122 career record. His winning percentage (60 percent) stands as a program record.

Quinlan also coached at Hopkins Academy, Pioneer Regional and Hampshire Regional. Off the diamond, Quinlan was a teacher of 30 years and also coached basketball.

“These people that taught me the game, the assistants at Northampton and the kids that played for me share in the award,” Quinlan said. “I had great kids at Northampton High. ... They all share in this award, it’s not just one person.”

Quinlan will be inducted Saturday at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Westborough. Tickets are $50 each and available at www.massbca.com or through MBCA executive board member and current Northampton baseball coach Mark Baldwin at 584-7012.

UNBEATEN — The Granby girls basketball team is the only remaining undefeated squad in Hampshire County.

For the second straight season the Rams (11-0) have qualified for tournament before suffering their first loss. A year ago, Granby strung together 12 wins before falling to eventually state runner-up Hoosac Valley at the Spalding Hoophall Classic. The Hurricanes beat the Rams in the Western Massachusetts Division 3 semifinal round.

Hoosac (9-1) and Granby are not scheduled to play this regular season.

Granby is averaging 54.3 points and holding opponents to 32.1 during its 11-0 start.

Sarah Moomaw can be reached at smoomaw@gazettenet.com.


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