Graduate student claims triple-gold

Cycling team leads point standings in regional conference after San Marcos opener


Sharome Burton

Morgan Ballesteros (left), physics sophomore, drafts behind rival during men’s ‘B’ criterium in San Marcos. Photo by Sharome Burton. Feb. 10.

Sharome Burton, Sports Reporter/Photographer

Exercise physiology graduate Zach Gregg sped his way to gold in all three disciplines as he set the tone of dominance for the Cycling team in the opening race weekend of the South Central Collegiate Cycling Conference (SCCCC) road race season hosted by Texas State in San Marcos, Texas on Feb. 10.

Competing in the men’s’ ‘A’ category, Gregg defied frigid and wet conditions to sprint his way to victory in the 56-mile road race on the morning of Feb. 9, before claiming another crown four hours later by setting a winning mark of six minutes, 49 seconds in the individual time trial which featured the notorious ‘Man-maker’ hill.

Gregg completed a perfect season debut by surging in the final lap to clinch gold in the men’s ‘A’ criterium race, after being placed in a strong position working alongside his teammates management information systems sophomore Alan Barrows and exercise physiology senior Pablo Cruz.

Gregg said teamwork had a big impact on his individual success.

“The first person across the finish line is obviously the winner but to get there it takes a tremendous amount of teamwork. A big part of cycling is the ability to save energy through drafting, so to have strong, experienced guys as teammates really gives me the upper hand in a lot of these situations,” Gregg said.

Gregg described the synergy that exists among the trio.

“For the road race, Pablo had a big target on his back coming off a win at Cedar Hill [Race Festival in Dallas] last weekend and that allowed me to get into an early move that ended up sticking,” Gregg said. “In the crit, Alan rode absolutely out of his mind. He was in a solo breakaway for almost half-an-hour in a 50-minute race and that was just absurd as far as effort goes on his part and the amount of pressure it took off Pablo and I so we actually had a pretty easy ride.”

Zach Gregg, exercise physiology graduate, sprints to finish line in men’s ‘A’ criterium. Photo by Sharome Burton. Feb. 10.

Gregg leads the men’s ‘A’ standings with 247 points while Cruz (91 points) and Barrows (79 points) hold eighth and tenth place respectively. Cycling director, Charlie Zamastil said he was pleased with the team’s opening showing.

“The first weekend’s always a bit of a mystery as to how we’re gonna come out and perform and how the other teams in the conference are going to be if we’ve got everyone in the right category, and if we’ve assessed their ability levels correctly. I think we were pretty on-point,” Zamastil said.

The seven-year director said there would be hard work ahead if the team is to defend its SCCCC road racing crown.

“The conference is definitely going to be challenging this year. It’s deep top to bottom. The men’s ‘A’ field is probably the strongest it’s been in several years, but I think we measured quite well across all four of the men’s categories and three of the women’s,” Zamastil said.

Morgan finishes second
Sharome Burton
Morgan Ballesteros, physics sophomore, exhales after taking second place in men’s ‘B’ criterium in San Marcos. Photo by Sharome Burton. Feb. 10.

Another highlight of the team’s dominant showing in San Marcos was the rise of Morgan Ballesteros, physics sophomore, into one of the top contenders for the men’s ‘B’ title. Ballesteros, who raced in the ‘D’ category in 2018, was a model of consistency as he earned second spots in each of his three races and second overall in the standings with 124 points. Ballesteros said his plan is to make further improvements this year.

“Yeah, absolutely. Probably the biggest thing I’m working on this year is just being able to put out short-term power so this has been a really good weekend to show where I’m at with that and a really good confidence-booster.” Ballesteros said. “I definitely hope [to win the conference]. I’m gonna keep working hard and hopefully, I can get some good wins in the coming races.”

Ballesteros said it was a special way to start the season.

“It was super awesome to be able to perform so well on my birthday weekend and this was a really fun race, I really liked all the courses and the riders I raced with are just super nice so it was a great weekend.”

Zamastil said the program has a track record of helping cyclists make significant gains in their careers.

“I think it really stems from those ‘A’ riders who came in or who have developed previously. They’ve shown the pathway and they’ve shown the dedication and focus and work that it takes to compete at that level and you’re either inspired by that or you’re in awe of it,” Zamastil said. “Fortunately for us, Morgan has shown that he’s definitely the former. The development he’s shown from when he first got here and he would struggle to hang on to the group rides to now where there are three guys who seem to be the class of the ‘B’ field and he’s definitely one of them. Morgan’s gonna be a force to be reckoned with since he’s only a sophomore and he’s only getting better.”

Amy Floyd (right), accounting senior, acknowledges applause after placing third in women’s ‘A’ criterium in San Marcos. Photo by Sharome Burton. Feb. 10.

Another solid contributor to the team’s dominance in the opening weekend was accounting senior, Amy Floyd, who was second overall in the women’s ‘A’ standing after her three races. Floyd, who came off an injury, said she hoped to be back to her best later this season.

“I took like a full three weeks off the bike to let my knee heal so it’s always tough taking that much time off from any kind of sport,” Floyd said. What I’ll probably do is try to focus on high-volume-low-intensity for a while to get my body back adapted, then start working on really high-intensity again and just using the first couple of races to get back into shape. I’d like to peak ideally in April, so the next two or three weekends may not be stellar results but hopefully, I’ll improve”

Floyd said she has set her sights on a strong farewell showing at the US Collegiate National Championships in May.

“I’d love to get top-10 or top-20 this year since it’s my final national championships but we’ll see and just hope for the best,” Floyd said.

Floyd was also impressed by the attitude of the team’s rookie riders, including  Ramon Rueda, exercise physiology graduate, who ended the weekend in second place in the men’s ‘D’ point standings.

“This weekend was really cold and wet.  Those conditions were not ideal but I was really proud of the whole team because everybody stayed safe and raced smart, especially those who had their first races ever. I was really impressed – they didn’t complain and were really positive,” Floyd said.

The next race weekend will be hosted by Texas A&M from Feb. 16-17.