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Sophomore Bryce Hocking rode to the first MTB individual national title in MU history. (photo by Jonathan Devich for USACycli
Sophomore Bryce Hocking rode to the first MTB individual national title in MU history. (photo by Jonathan Devich for USACycli
Cycling - Mon, Oct. 22, 2012
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by Michael Kubancsek for

ANGEL FIRE, N.M. - The Marian University cycling team's mountain bike squad made program history this weekend in Angel Fire, N.M., after the Knights achieved a team podium finish and sophomore Bryce Hocking earned the program's first individual national mountain bike championship in the dual slalom event.

On the last day of competition, the Knights had their best results, including four individual podium finishes and a third-place team omnium finish. The Knights edged out Lees-McRae College and the University of Wyoming to finish third with 445 total points scored over the eight events.

Juniors Crystal Kalogris, Brittany Bates, Chase Hines, and sophomore Bryce Hocking all finished in the top five of their dual slalom tournaments. Hines earned the best qualifying time in the morning time trials, while Hocking finished seventh. Hocking eventually beat out the University of Colorado-Boulder's men's individual omnium threat, Joey Schusler, for the national championship.

"I'm happy to be the first-ever individual mountain bike national champ for Marian," said Hocking. "And I couldn't have done it without the support of my teammates and coaches."

Kalogris nearly defended her national slalom title from 2011, coming in second in her final run to Lindsey Wilson College's Stephanie Caluag after facing many adversities, including two crashes, throughout the day. Bates finished in fifth place after a disappointing crash.

"I couldn't be more proud of these kids. Each and every rider did something today that showed their true talents and determination as student-athletes," said assistant coach Ryan Birk, in his first season with the Knights.

In 2011, Marian finished 16th in the team omnium, largely due to a lack of athletes competing in the downhill and dual slalom races. With a full gravity team this year to contest those events, and post all top-15 finishes, Marian jumped to third in the team ranking and found the podium for the first time at this championship.

"We have worked very hard to build this team over a four-year plan," said head coach Dean Peterson. "This result has legitimized our efforts to build quality programs in all of the collegiate cycling disciplines, while offering a vibrant and high quality student-athlete experience."

The weekend's competition started on Friday with the cross-country endurance races, and MU started well with three men finishing in the top 25. The Knights improved in Saturday's short track races and four riders placed in the top 15 of the downhill event, as well. After two days, Marian University sat in sixth in the team omnium with high hopes of finding some additional places in the dual slalom racing.

"The fact that our gravity squad contributed to the team's overall success, and that we had Bryce on the top step of the podium is a huge achievement for this program, and makes me proud," reflected Birk.

The overall third place also means that the Knights hold their spot as the top collegiate cycling team in the country with two of five national championships in the books. Marian University leads UC-Boulder, 179-168, which finished third at track nationals in September, while MU won the track championship. The Knights will next travel to the 2013 USA Cycling Collegiate Cyclo-cross National Championships in Madison, Wis., on January 5-8.

"Although we see this as a huge milestone for the Marian University cycling program," said Peterson. "We also recognize that we still have more to do. We race to win."