Broderick’s Win and Wane’s Podium Spot Pace the Team to Third
April 21, 2009 (Boulder, CO) – “I am pretty blown away at how far we’ve come since November,” said Mike Ricci, who took the helm as head coach of the University of Colorado Triathlon Team at the end of 2008. Ricci was reflecting back on the past six months of work the team did in preparation for the USAT Collegiate National Championships held last weekend in Lubbock, Texas.
Going into this year’s championship race, the team only had three men and one woman returning from last year. “So not a lot in the way the experience or depth,” said Ricci.
“I knew this was a rebuilding year and I honestly expected we’d take a step back in terms of overall team performance at nationals. I thought a top five would be a very long shot. Upholding CU’s tradition was weighing heavily on me since I took the job in November, but I kept reminding myself how young this team was and that we were working for the long term—and if that meant taking a step back in 2009, that was okay.”
CU’s tradition includes ten team titles in sixteen years of racing plus a handful of individual titles. Although they arguably have the longest standing tradition in collegiate triathlon, other programs have been developing traditions of their own. Among them include the California schools—UC-Berkeley, UC-San Diego, UCLA, and Cal Poly—as well as Army and Navy. As more schools develop the support structure for collegiate triathlon, the list continues to grow.
From 1994 through 2005, CU had never lost the team title for more than one year without regaining it. However, CU’s domination at nationals has been challenged more and more in recent years with their last team title now coming four years ago.
UC-Berkeley and UC-San Diego, along with strong Army and Navy teams were to test the mettle of a young CU squad this year in Lubbock. CU had a number of talented swimmers, bikers, and runners—in the individual disciplines—but the question would be whether Ricci could turn these single sport specialists into all-around triathletes.
“Starting out, we knew we had a number of good runners that were just getting started in swimming,” Ricci explained. “A 36 minute 10k means nothing if you swim 35 minutes [for 1.5k] and that was pretty much where we were for three guys who ultimately finished in our top five. I asked a few of the athletes to swim every day over winter break and this seemed to work well. A few of them made some nice improvements in the swim and I felt better about that, but they still needed race experience.”
Although Ricci is an elite level triathlon coach and makes a living helping athletes achieve their potential in the sport, he needed to prove to his collegiate athletes that the training he was asking them to do over the winter would pay off later in the spring.
“As the winter wore on, each time trial we did just proved the training was working and the team was getting faster and faster,” said Ricci. “Being a new coach you have to prove your methods are working and when I showed them the results of how they had swam the 1200-yard time trial at the same pace as the 500-yard time trial only twelve weeks earlier, I think they started to believe the work was paying off.
“This crew did everything I asked them to do this season and they never complained. It’s truly an incredible group of student athletes. It seemed the harder I made the workouts, the more they liked it and the more the attendance at workouts increased.”
The road to Lubbock included a stop at the Collegiate Mountain Conference Championships in Lake Havasu, Arizona on March 21. The Buffaloes proved that when it comes to their own neighborhood, they are the fastest team on the block. The team dominated the race, with Cédric Wane winning the men’s individual title, accompanied by Todd Darlington’s third place. The women took the first two podium spots, with Ashley Walker claiming the win and Heidi Spees taking the runner-up spot. When the team scores were tallied, CU swept the men’s team title, the women’s team title, and the combined team title.
They accomplished those results at Havasu without tapering. That race, after all, was simply a tune-up for the main showdown that would take place a month later in Lubbock.
“Even though we were improving—after looking at our time trials and how we did at Lake Havasu—we were on pace to be in about the top ten among the men’s teams at nationals,” explained Ricci.
Ricci was particularly impressed with the women’s 1-2 performance at Lake Havasu, which was without their top racer, Jessica Broderick. As a result, Ricci said, “I was anticipating a good showing at nationals [for the women].” Somewhere in the top five, he figured.
Jessica Broderick, a freshman Integrative Physiology major from Middlebury, Connecticut, began racing triathlons three years ago. She caught the bug from watching her mother compete in the sport. “I fell in love with the atmosphere,” she said.
After suffering some burn-out from her years as a swimmer, Broderick found her passion in triathlon. “My mom did triathlon and I always went along with her and just got hooked on the great environment with so many motivated and healthy individuals.”
After finding success on the track during her junior and senior years of high school, Broderick considered pursuing a scholarship to run in college. But triathlon was her true passion, and she didn’t want to sacrifice multisport training for the demands of competing in a single sport during four years of college.
Her focus on triathlon has paid off. Before her first year of college, Broderick finished third in her age group at the ITU Age Group World Championship in Vancouver, Canada. She has also gained experience racing in several draft legal races, including an eighth place finish at the Junior Elite Nationals and a sixth place finish at the Tuscaloosa Talent ID Race last year. Even if her talent had not been completely identified at those races, her potential in the sport must certainly be recognized now.
For weeks leading up to the collegiate showdown in Lubbock—where Broderick was to face Army’s Ashley Morgan, a fierce runner who also competes on Army’s track and cross country teams—Broderick had a reoccurring dream of holding the tape at the finish line.
“When it actually happened,” explained Broderick, “it was mind boggling and amazing in every way possible.
“Even more exciting than holding the banner and finishing first,” she added, “was seeing the yellow crowd of crazy CU Buffaloes when I turned the last corner on the run and saw the finish line. That moment, with all of my teammates and supporters going crazy, I was purely content. The pain escaped my body and I enjoyed the run down the last straight away to victory.”
Despite Broderick’s individual athletic accomplishments, she had never been part of a team oriented atmosphere before.
“Winning this was extremely rewarding in that way,” said Broderick. “It wasn’t just a personal victory but a victory for the team as a whole. What makes it so special is that after all the hard training with my teammates, pushing each other, becoming the best of friends and really a family, I was able to give back to my team a small fraction of the love and support they have given me by racing my heart out and capturing the title.”
In the men’s race in Lubbock, Cédric Wane—who had won Lake Havasu a month prior—was aiming for a top ten individual finish among what he knew would be some tough competition.
Wane came out of the water a few minutes behind the leaders and immediately went to work on the bike. “I tried to hang in there as much as possible before starting the bike,” said Wane. “I was definitely looking forward to bridging the gap with the leaders and trying to win the Blue bike [a prime awarded to the top bike split].” Wane posted the second fastest bike split, which helped him move up seven spots in the race, although he lost out on the prime for the new bike by a mere eleven seconds.
Moving onto the run, Ricci shouted to Wane that he was two minutes behind the leader. At that point, Wane noted, “I had a mix of feelings—disappointment, excitement, frustration. I couldn’t decide whether it was a big or small gap. I was determined to give it my best though.”
That he did. Although Wane later felt he ran too conservatively over the first 5k, he had cut the gap down to thirty seconds by that halfway point. In the end, he posted a 34:39 10k. Overall, that put him on the podium, only 29 second off of the winning time of UC-Berkeley’s John Dahlz, and nine seconds away from the runner-up, Navy’s Derek Oskutis.
“On race day, everyone seemed to race as well as they could have and in the end the team result is better than we thought we were capable of,” Ricci said. “It just shows that hard work, sacrifice and believing that you can achieve something can pay off—and for us, it did.
“Most importantly,” added Ricci, “we are fortunate to have great leadership on this team—Daniel Bjugstad as our President, Joe Britton has been on this team for years as a PhD student, and Jordan Corbman contributes so much of his time as well. Dan sets the tone with his organization, Joe keeps everyone in line and Jordan is the guy who keeps it loose for all of us.
“In addition, Ashley Walker, our number two female, comes to practice each day, does the workout and never complains about how hard it is. She sets an amazing example for our younger athletes by balancing work toward her PhD, training consistently, and racing at a high level.
“You can’t coach those intangibles and I feel very fortunate to have such great leaders on this team like Dan, Joe, Ashley and Jordan. That makes my job much easier. I am truly blessed to coach such an incredible group of student athletes who want to work hard and strive to achieve great things, not only in triathlon, but in life.”
The future of the CU Triathlon Team has yet to be written, but you can be sure one goal figures prominently in their minds: regaining that coveted collegiate championship in the years to come. But regardless of results, the team’s program with Coach Mike Ricci has already upheld CU’s tradition of being a hotbed for the continued development of new multisport talent.
Look for the team at the Kansas 70.3 and 5430 Sports Wild on Windsor Olympic distance triathlon this summer—two races that will be holding collegiate divisions.