SoCal GRiT Ambassadors

SoCal GRiT Ambassadors are female high school student-athletes, coaches, and alumni that have been a part of the SoCal League for at least one season. We all have a great passion to show girls and ladies that mountain biking is a sport for YOU! Somewhere along the line many people got confused and started thinking that mountain biking was a “guys’ sport.” They are SO wrong!!! Mountain biking is for everyone!!! Catch up with us if you have questions about mountain biking from a girl’s perspective. Better yet, come try a ride with us at a GRiT Gathering or talk to us at the SoCal GRiT tent on race weekends. If you need additional information about the SoCal GRiT program contact Brandon at

Alexa Azzolin, Coach & Alumn

My go to place for riding is a small, lesser known regional park called Bogart in Beaumont. It’s a place where I can enjoy an either relaxing or difficult ride. However, I definitely do enjoy going to Sky Park up near Big Bear whenever possible as well. When I first heard of the GRiT program, I thought it was so cool that they were making something just for girls, since mountain biking seems so male dominated in the league. My reason for wanting to become an ambassador for this program is because I want to be an advocate for girls. When I first heard about the SoCal league, I was very nervous and hesitant to get into the sport, which is something I know I wasn’t alone in and felt intimidated by. The feeling didn’t go away until I joined my high school team and went to the first practice. I had discovered it was the best thing that I could’ve ever gotten myself into. My only regret is that I didn’t join sooner! I’d like to be able to share my experience and show all the wonderful things mountain biking can offer. And, that it’s so much more than just being on a bike. There are many positive reasons to being involved with this sport. Lastly, my favorite ice cream would definitely be mint & chip!

Alyssa Barrick, Student-Athlete

My favorite place to ride is Vail Lake because of the endless fun trails and flowy single track. I want to be a SoCal NICA GRiT Ambassador because I want to encourage and motivate more girls to join this amazing sport. As an ambassador I hope to show girls how fun Mountain biking really is. My favorite flavor of ice cream is salted Caramel! Instagram @alyssa_barrick

Ava Fong, Student-Athlete

I’m an independent racer but I train with Foothill High School. Santiago Oaks Regional Park is my favorite place to ride because it contains many challenging climbs and descents. The reason I want to be an Ambassador is because I love inspiring people to do what they love. I think mountain biking is something everyone can excel in and I want people to know that no matter how hard something may be, they can succeed if they work for it. My favorite ice cream flavor would have to be chocolate, because who doesn’t love chocolate? Instagram @avafongmtb

Christa Lamb, Coach & GRiT Committee

I really love the trails in my area, Sycamore Canyon, but after the NICA conference in Arkansas, I may say my favorite place to ride is the OZ trails of NWA.  Truly, however, my favorite place to ride is anywhere I have friends!  I am very much a social rider, and look forward to sharing my love of riding while helping to build a strong community atmosphere.  I am a middle school teacher and enjoy working with teenagers.  My favorite ice cream flavor would be anything with caramel, coffee and chocolate, or maybe coconut and peanut butter.  Who am I kidding?  I like them all! Facebook @ChristaHeinemannLamb

Dylan Darnley, Student-Athlete

Hi! My name is Dylan Darnley and my favorite place to ride has to be Vail Lake, because there are so many great, well kept trails and lots of different types of riding that can be done there. I am so thankful for the ambassador program because it makes NICA so much more connected and awesome. I only wish we had a program like this when I first started racing. I’d like to inspire many young female middle/high schoolers and make them feel more comfortable riding/racing with local teams. My favorite ice cream flavor is cotton candy. 🙂 Instagram @dylandarnleymtb

Emily Gables, Student-Athlete

My favourite place to ride is sycamore canyon wildlife park in riverside, specifically in the winter!! I want to be an ambassador because mountain biking is the thing that I am most passionate about, other than my faith, which ties into it immensely. it is an under recognized sport, especially in my school/surrounding schools and so having the opportunity to support more girls on bikes is so so awesome and I believe it can truly be effective as I’ve already seen the reputation/awareness of it rise in the last four years I’ve been racing (this upcoming will be my fifth) just by word of mouth and people seeing at races that girls can ride bikes too. my favourite ice cream flavour is truthfully all of them. the biggest motivation I have for finishing every race is the ice cream a teammate has promised me after every single one. Instagram @emilygables

Faith Hopkins, Student-Athlete

Hi my name is Faith Hopkins and I ride for Tehachapi Composite MTB Team. This year I will be in varsity and I’m excited for my last year of high school cycling. My favorite place to ride is in Bend, Oregon because it so green and the trails are really enjoyable! And my favorite ice cream flavor is cookies n cream! I’m so excited for this opportunity and I’m stoked to be a part of this team! Instagram @faith._.hopkinss

Gwendalyn Gibson, Alumn

My name is Gwendalyn Gibson. I started riding and racing bikes when I was a freshman in the Socal High school league. My high school team Coach, Robert Grace, was always trying to get new girls to join the team and as a result I found a sport that I absolutely love. As a SoCal NICA GRIT Ambassador I only hope I can do the same for others and get more girls on bikes!! Whether I’m racing, training, or just out for an ice cream ride with friends bikes bring me so much joy and I want to help others get that same experience. Speaking of Ice Cream my favorite flavor is Mint n Chip and it is a strict part of my race routine to have some the Thursday before every race! Instagram @gwinie_the_pooh

Hayley Barrick, Student-Athlete

My favorite place to ride is Big Bear because of its amazing views and fun rocky downhill. The reason I want to be a GRiT Ambassador is to share this amazing sport with more girls, and to encourage more girls to ride. Riding has brought me so much joy and I want to share that with as many girls as I can.  My favorite flavor of ice cream is rocky road. Instagram @hayhay115

Jordan Hurdle, Student-Athlete

Hi my name is Jordan and I race for the Newbury Park Team. We have some awesome trails, my favorite being a flowy and fun downhill section called Mr. Toads. I am very involved in my community here in NP through my church and school, so when I heard of GRiT it seemed like a perfect way to get more involved in the biking community!! I am looking forward to encouraging girls of all skill levels to have fun of their bikes :). My fav ice cream flavor is Cherry Garcia from Ben and Jerry’s (aka the best flavor).

Jordan Lavezzari, Student-Athlete

I have been mountain biking for one year and am honored to be a co-captain of the boys and girls on the Damien-St. Lucy’s Mountain Biking Team. I enjoy riding in Marshall Canyon and hold a record-breaking number of spills on the trails within. As I have become more confident (and balanced), I strive to better myself at every twist and turn! I am looking forward to being an Ambassador for SoCal NICA GRiT so that I can encourage other young women to find their passion for biking, especially if it’s (initially) out of their comfort zone. Personal experience and great connections with other girl-driven organizations will allow me to inspire and excite potential mountain biking girls. My favorite ice cream flavor is pralines and cream! Facebook @DamienHighMTB

Julia Gibbons, Student-Athlete

My name’s Julia, and I’m here to spread the word that biking is (objectively) the greatest sport on earth. It’s fantastic in so many different ways, but my favorite thing about the sport is how it brings people together. My goal is to get many people on bikes as possible, so that means girls and guys. I hope that being a NICA GRiT Ambassador will create more opportunities for me to encourage more women to join the sport. I race road, cross country, and enduro, and I love them all. Although I must say I prefer going down, so my favorite trails tend to be the chunky descents. As far as ice cream goes, I’ll eat any flavor put in front of me as long as it’s preceded by a long hot ride. Instagram @julia.gibbons

Julia Oghigian, Student-Athlete

My favorite place to ride is the Antonovich Trail next to Bonelli Park. I wanted to be a SoCal NICA GRiT Ambassador because I think it is a great idea to get more girls on bikes. I love riding so much that I want some else to be able to experience such an amazing thing. My favorite flavor of ice cream is mint chocolate chip.

Kathy Parks, Coach

High School Health Education teacher and MTB coach at Temescal Canyon High School; I started our team with my husband 6 years ago and have loved every minute of it! I began this adventure having no experience mountain biking.  Two months before the start of our first season I bought my first real mountain bike at 49 years old, so I can definitely relate to the many girls who come to our sport with a combination of excitement and a bit of fear!  My favorite places to ride include Lake Tahoe’s Flume Trail and the gorgeous terrain of Hurricane, Utah.   As a GRiT Ambassador I hope to help grow the rewarding sport of mountain biking while inspiring, encouraging and supporting our mission — getting more girls on bikes.  My favorite flavor of ice cream is Rocky Road (no pun intended!), followed by Mocha Almond Fudge as a close runner up. Facebook @TitanCycling

Lorraine Costanzo, Coach & GRiT Committee

Being a GRiT ambassador will help me to reach out to these young girls and help them build their confidence on the bike. It is an opportunity for these girls to make new friends with the same interest.  It is very rewarding to watch these young ladies build their self confidence on a bike and in life. The most important thing that I want for the girls is to have fun on their bikes. Favorite Ice Cream is Cookie Crunch.

Madysen Rails, Student-Athlete

I have been riding mountain bikes since I was 8 years old and started racing in 6th grade. My favorite place to ride is Moab, Utah. I want to spread my love of biking with others and encourage more people to join the community of biking, and to increase the bonds and friendship between riders. And the most important fact about me is my favorite ice cream flavor is mint chip. Instagram @_mady_rails_

Makena Kellerman, Student-Athlete

My favorite local place to ride is Daley Ranch. I started riding in MTB as a sport at the beginning of the 2018 season. As practice started I fell in love with the sport. The reason why I wanted to be an GRiT Ambassador is because I want to show girls how fun, and amazing this sports MTB really is. I also really want to just get more girls involved in the MTB community.  My favorite ice cream flavor is Rainbow Sherbet. Instagram @makenamtb

Mary Hoppen, Coach

I was about 6 years old when I got a BMX bike and I have been hooked on cycling ever since then. Growing up in Germany made cycling not always enjoyable, it rained a lot. In the 90’s I raced jet-skies professionally. My teammate back at the time is now my husband for over 20 years. In 1997 we moved to California and I got busy with raising three kids. Two of them already graduated high school and one is still going through high school at the moment. All three of our kids raced the SoCal High School League. I am a coach for the El Toro High School Team since 2014, and I still love coaching till this day. My favorite trails to ride are up in Whistler, Canada. You find the most gnarliest trails at the downhill park and beautiful xc trails around the city. What really got me hooked on coaching is teaching kids the lifestyle of mountain biking. For me mountain biking is not only a great sport that brings people together, it is a healthy activity you can enjoy with family and friends. You always meet new friends and with that your mountain bike family continues to grow as a whole. I am excited to be part of this new program that brings Girls together by riding mountain bikes. Instagram @mary_hoppen

Nathalie Lai, Student-Athlete

I am so excited to be a part of SoCal NICA GRiT! I hope that my meaningful interactions through this program will motivate other girls to take a chance on mountain biking and see it as a lifelong pursuit. Personally, I feel most alive when I spin up some quiet, dusty fire road. I love riding up Mt. Lukens, a ride that offers beautiful views both along the way and at the top. After a ride like this, my go-to recovery snack after is a ride is Phish Food ice cream. I cannot wait to be involved with GRiT and meet inspiring people along the way.

Peyton Stearns, Student-Athlete & GRiT Chair

Peyton’s favorite place to ride is Mammoth. There are so many good trails up there to choose from, even if they do go up! (Yep! She’s one of those crazy riders who loves to climb hills.) Peyton comes from a background of Irish dancing, which is female dominated and really missed all the friends she made. When she was given the opportunity to be involved in GRiT she jumped at the chance hoping to expose more girls to the mountain bike scene, make more friends and share her love of the outdoors and fitness with other girls. Peyton’s favorite ice cream is Ben & Jerry’s Double Fudge Brownie and she’s looking forward to meeting all the girls at the ice cream socials and yoga events. Peyton rides a black Breezer Cloud 9 with pink accessories and gum wall tires. If she you see her, stop and say “hi!” she loves to chat! Instagram @peeeyyyton

Sofia Hillman, Student-Athlete

I have been riding a bike since I was six years old and one of my first memories is of cruising around my backyard with no pedals. I started racing in the SoCal league when I was twelve. Now I am an adventure-seeking, chocolate-ice-cream-loving, mountain biker. My favorite trail to ride is one near my house called Space Mountain… the name says it all.  I am a GRiT ambassador because I love to mountain bike and I want to share this great sport with more people.  As an ambassador I hope to meet new people and get more girls on bikes!!!

Timari Pruis-Allen, Coach & GRiT Committee

I began riding and racing mountain bikes during my first year in college, after having been a XC runner and a swimmer. Once I discovered mountain biking, it quickly became my passion over both running and swimming, and it continues do be that way to this day. I formerly raced XC MTB events and in 2000 I found by niche within 24 and 12 hr solo races. My favorite place to ride is the Tahoe Rim Trail in Lake Tahoe, mostly because of the amazing single track, but also because of the stunning views. My reasoning in wanting to be a Grit ambassador stems from my already extensive involvement in the league as a coach, a coach trainer, a league board directory, as well as being a rep for league sponsor Hyperthreads. I am beyond excited for the launch of the Grit program, as it provides a way for me to help encourage other girls and women, that they CAN do this crazy sport of mountain biking. I previously felt that my biggest way to influence other ladies was through racing, but as I get “older” (and at some point will start racing less…..but not quite yet! Lol), this is the perfect way to continue my involvement in the sport that has given me both lasting friendships, as well as confidence in myself that I did not previously have. Instagram @timaripruis

Trissa Ayala, Coach

Trissa started riding and racing bikes in college with the Cal Poly Pomona Cycling in both road and mountain.  She played a key role with her team as the treasurer and co-president while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems.  After getting married, she and her husband continued to race mountain bikes for fun and fitness!  She is excited to join GRiT and get more girls on bikes!  Her goal is to share this passion for cycling and fitness by  keeping it fun for all girls at all levels!  When Trissa isn’t pedaling on two wheels, she enjoys wakeboarding, wakesurfing and ripping the throttle on her adventure bike!

Wendy Salin, Coach

I remember the joy of getting my first bike and the freedom and mobility it afforded. I still get that same feeling of exhilaration to this day when I go out for a ride. Some of my favorite places to explore are the mountains of Mammoth and Santa Cruz as they require different bike handling techniques from where I normally ride and I am always grinning ear to ear when I’m done.

As a GRiT ambassador, I want to share my passion for cycling with others and cultivate a sense of community and comradery. Spending time on bikes provides ample opportunities to improve your skills as well as to make to make a complete fool of yourself, hopefully more the former than the latter. By sharing this time together we will all grow closer and reap the positive results of our dedication and applied effort.  But most importantly, when it’s over, we will all get to eat ice cream.

Wendy Smith, Coach

I love to ride wherever my wheels are currently touching the ground and where ever my friends are!  I wanted to be a GRiT Ambassador to bring more girls to the sport of mountain biking for the lifelong friendships that are made and the challenges that we can conquer together.  My favorite ice cream is triple chocolate with loads of hot fudge and chocolate sprinkles!  I love any ride that ends at an ice cream shop!  I am looking forward to meeting new friends and introducing girls to the joy of mountain biking.