SoCal Management Team

Matt Gunnell, President & Executive Director

Matt bought his first mountain bike (a fully rigid Diamond Back Ascent) in 1985. He spent time in many jobs including water polo coach, school teacher, rock and roller, soldier, and police detective. Along the way he picked up a BA in Fine Art and an MPA in Public Administration along with time spent as a bike club President and bike race promoter (after quickly discovering he was better at putting races on than racing). After an injury forced transition from the police force he helped bring the SoCal League together in 2008 as a member of the founding board. When the SoCal League was looking for its first Director Matt kept raising his hand and flailing it around wildly. He eventually secured the position by agreeing to work full time for free for a year. Matt is passionate about cycling, about youth development, and about the magic that occurs when those two are mixed together!

Brandon La Rue, SoCal League Associate Director

Brandon attended his first league event in 2011 under the assumption that it would be just a typical mountain bike race, but soon realized he had stumbled into something very special.  Like many others, Brandon spent his first race as a course marshal, wishing he had stayed closer to the infield.  Despite getting a sunburn and running out of water, what he saw that day at the race made him want to become more involved with the league. He went on to serve as a volunteer staff member for five seasons before leaving his cushy government job to accept a full time position with the league in 2015.  Prior to his work at the Federal Court of Appeals, Brandon served in the US Navy then later worked as a shop foreman.  He is a So Cal native, having grown up in La Cañada Flintridge, and can best be described as an avid enthusiast of anything that gets people outside and living life.  He would describe his riding style as “enduro” because he rides his trail bike like a long-travel bike…be it up or downhill.  Brandon has also been involved in rock climbing, distance running, and even played interscholastic equestrian polo during high school.  He is devoted to the high school cycling movement and hopes to see more riders, more trails, and more community support for cycling as a result of his work with the league.

NICA Management Team

Lauren Duensing, NICA Programs Director

Lauren Duensing is passionate about the programs of NICA! She manages the program staff in the NICA headquarters, and works with the 9 leagues and a national team to deliver the 65 (and growing) races, events, summits and conferences a year. Lauren is committed to the continued excellence the NICA programs provide for student riders, coaches and parents, and the expanded impact of the high school mountain biking movement. She comes to NICA as a parent impacted by the NICA story. An avid trail runner and reluctant biker, she was lead by her two children who race(d) with NorCal to become an enthusiastic mountain biker. “Mountain Biking has defined and changed our family. It is what we do.”

Lauren Haughey, NICA Finance and Administrations Director

Lauren’s love of bicycles started early on in her life as an 8 year old wheelie popping, bigwheel skidding, log jumper. She spent much of her childhood summers trying to out perform her siblings in the art of tricycle and bigwheel log jumping – and on steep, fast descents in the neighborhood streets. After a few broken bones, she decided to move onto safer sports and spent her high school and college years competing in long distance running, swimming and soccer. It wasn’t until after she finished college, married a cyclist and had a couple of kids that she started racing and riding bikes again.

Lauren comes to the league after a 16 year career stint in ecommerce, a few years at local cycling magazine, Cyclocross Magazine – and most recently a year at local cargo bike company, Xtracycle, directing fulfillment operations.

Chris Spencer, NICA Programs Manager

After Graduating from UC Santa Cruz with a B.A. in Global Economics, Chris got back to his roots and started working at the NorCal League. Starting in 2002, Chris raced in the League for three years as an independent for Roaring Mouse Cycles. In 2004 with the help of his coach, Dario Fredrick, Chris took his success in the League as encouragement to race the NORBA National series. He placed 3rd in the Junior Expert National Finals at Durango, CO and in the National Championships at Mammoth, CA. While taking a sabbatical from competitive racing at UC Santa Cruz, Chris stayed involved by coaching high school athletes. Chris says, “My current interest in racing is expanding opportunities for all high school athletes.”


Julia Lawrence, NICA Programs Manager

Julia is an outdoor enthusiast and all-around “fun-seeking” mountain biker who came to the NICA team as a current parent and Assistant Coach of San Ramon Valley High School. A stay at home mom for the past 20 years, Julia fills her days with volunteering at the local schools and exploring Las Trampas and Mt Diablo on her mountain bike. She has seen what a positive impact high school mountain biking has had on her own children as well as the students in her community. “Our team emphasizes life skills, and while we love to compete, at the end of the day it is more about our experiences on the bike with our teammates, learning a life-long sport.”

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