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Cycling team kicks into high gear at nationals

Capping off a memorable season, Northeastern’s University’s cycling club team sent five participants—its largest contingent ever—to last weekend’s USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships in North Carolina.

Stefan Gottschalk, Kenneth McNeill, Peter McNulty, Ford Murphy, and Lisa Thompson donned the university’s traditional reds and blacks for the national championship, which represented the final competition of the cycling team’s mountain bike season that began in September.

“It was a lot of fun,” club president Eric Panicucci said of the fall season. “Generally, we are one of the more competitive teams in the conference.”

Northeastern is a member of the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference, which comprises more than 70 colleges in regional states as far-flung as Maine and Pennsylvania. Not only did Northeastern finish second in the conference in the regular season, but McNeill, a second-year student, earned the conference’s omnium championship by scoring the most points combined across all four race formats— cross-country, short-track cross country, downhill, and dual slalom.

One of the ECCC’s perks, Panicucci explained, is that it features races for every level of rider. Thompson joined the team in 2009 as an entry-level road racer and now competes in the mountain bike national championship. “How awesome is that,” Panicucci said.

The Northeastern mountain biking team consists of about 30 bicyclists, five of whom participated in the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference championships.

The Northeastern mountain biking team consists of about 30 bicyclists, five of whom participated in the USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships in North Carolina.

At nationals, Northeastern’s five participants finished in the middle of the pack of their respective cross-country, short track, and downhill races, all of which featured between 40 and 85 competitors.

The mountain biking team comprises about 30 active riders, all of whom are encouraged to race to the best of their ability. “We expect you to come and race with us to help elevate the level of competition for everyone on the team,” Panicucci said.

The cycling team is also a tight-knit group. According to Panicucci, the more experienced riders rise early to cheer on the novices, who typically compete in the morning. Since the club does not have a head coach or staff to handle logistics, the seasoned bikers often serve as club officers. “By planning your own season, you definitely get that personal touch,” Panicucci noted.

Cycling is one of 42 club sports at Northeastern. Last year, 21 Northeastern club sports teams competed in their respective national championships.