Matt Gunnell, 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, League Director: Racing & Operations
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.
Nikki Peterson, Program Coordinator
Nikki Peterson was invited by a teacher and long-time coach to attend an informational meeting to start a middle school team in Idyllwild, CA. Little did she know, this meeting would change her life. Over the next two years, Nikki became more and more involved with NICA in areas such as coaching, becoming a GRiT ambassador, teaching Coach Skills Clinics, and becoming a member of the Board of Directors. While not teaching kids how to be excited to ride and race bikes, she was working full-time at the school, completing her second degree by earning a Multiple Subject teaching credential and a Masters in Education, racing mountain bikes at the Professional level, and co-founding a Women’s Professional Mountain Bike team, KS Kenda Women, which is entering its third year. Prior to her bike-focused life, she ran cross country and track and field for Indiana University and the University of Wyoming while earning a BS in Dietetics, and then co-owned two coffee shops in Lander, WY after college before heading further west. Nikki is very passionate about cycling, youth development, hanging with her Yorkie, Fischer; and spreading the stoke of mountain bikes and being outside in nature!