Brian Hamilton: Foothills produce amazing athletes |

Brian Hamilton: Foothills produce amazing athletes

Anyone who’s taken the time to read our Alumni Notebook on Monday morning knows western Nevada County continues to churn out talented crops of athletes across the board in all sports.

Most often in our weekly roundup of former prep stars, we read about the exploits of our native athletes competing at the collegiate or professional levels of the traditional sports we cover at Bear River, Forest Lake Christian and Nevada Union high schools.

But I am so often amazed and overwhelmed by the number of our athletes who are out there excelling without the promise of a paycheck or a college scholarship for their hard work.

They’re out there giving it their all purely for the thrill of competition and the satisfaction of testing their own physical abilities.

And believe me, there are a lot of them out there competing in quite an array of sports. I’m always happy hear – and share – the good news about the latest strong showing or milestone met. Thanks to many members of our community, we’re often able to make sure such feats don’t go unnoticed.

Another example came last weekend, when Nevada City’s Erin Moeschler won a $5,000 Santa Cruz Nomad full-suspension mountain bike at the “Hell Ride” in Downieville on Aug. 2.

According to Craig Lindberg of the Sierra Express Racing Team, the “Hell Ride” pits eight riders against two pros, who start an hour after the riders. The first man and woman completing the course, and also beating the chasing professionals, win the bike.

After nearly 13 hours of racing, Lindberg said, Erin beat the next female participant by just four minutes.

“The course is 66 miles long (an extreme distance on dirt) and includes nearly 3 miles of vertical climbing (14,500 feet),” Lindberg wrote in an e-mail. “It’s a dangerous, quirky event where thousands of people apply to get tortured, but only eight are selected. Erin was voted in, trained like crazy, and then became a superhero to win this race event.”

Last month, a few other area riders made also news at the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships at the Mt. Snow Resort in West Dover, Vt. A fourth-place finish from 18-year-old Nevada City native Graeme Pitts in the Junior Expert Division of the Downhill competition led the way.

Three other locals legged it out in the cross country competition, with Penn Valley’s 18-year-old Nate Byrom bringing back an 11th place performance in the 17-18 year-old division of the Junior Expert category. Chris Thibodeau of Grass Valley claimed 20th place among 19-24 year olds in the Expert division. Chuck Ross, also of Grass Valley, competed in the 35-39 year old Expert division, but was forced to pull out of the race.

Thibodeau said though Ross was OK, he experienced difficulty breathing during the race, which both believe might had been due to the heavy smoke blanketing Nevada County for weeks this summer.

But there’s more than area mountain bikers making a name for themselves across the country.

Last weekend in Sparta, Ill., Parker Downs of Browns Valley teamed up with Brooke Shuford of Bakersfield and Logan Brinkley of Apple Valley, to led their “Sharpshooters, 560” skeet team to second place in the junior varsity division of the Scholastic Clay Target Program Skeet and Sporting Clay National Championships.

And how about Diana Garbin? The Alta Sierra Country Club member scored her first career hole-in-one on Monday while playing at Genoa Lakes Golf Resort in Carson City, Nev.

According to Mary Kloss, who’s kind enough to keep us up to date on such feats by ASCC golfers, Garbin used a 9-wood on the 111-yard fifth hole. Kloss said the ace was an especially memorable feat for Diana, who was celebrating her wedding anniversary with a round of golf alongside her husband, David, and a couple of friends.

As many of you might know, there’s also quite a poker player among us. Although he was too humble to sit down for a story, Nevada City’s Andy Witek did confirm he was, in fact, the “Andy Witek” who won more than $38,000 by taking 164th place in the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas last month.

Perhaps, like those locals we follow on the football fields, volleyball courts and baseball diamonds, we’ll even get a chance to follow along on ESPN as he chases his dream.

After all, it’s clearly not a good idea to bet against him.

Brian Hamilton is sports editor at The Union. His column is published Saturdays. Contact him via e-mail at or by phone at 477-4240.

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