LONGMONT, Colo. – The Denver Pioneers women’s triathlon team placed second overall on Saturday morning at the 2022 Oktoberfest Sprint NCAA race at Union Reservoir.
Denver had three finishers in the top 10, led by sophomore Clara Normand in sixth place, freshman Elizabeth Harita in eighth, and sophomore Freya McKinley in 10th.
“It was our first opportunity this season to race against nationally-ranked teams in Division I, and it was a great learning experience for us,” said DU head coach Barbara Perkins. “We had some highlights and some things that were difficult and things that we can learn from. I’m pretty happy, as even though we didn’t have our best day we still got second among the top four teams in the country from last year. I think there is a lot to work on from here and improve on until we get to regionals in a little less than a month.”
The Pioneers garnered 212 points in the race, with only winner Arizona State having more (233 points). The University of San Francisco placed third with 195 points, while the University of South Dakota rounded out the Division-I competition in fourth with 173 points. Black Hills State placed fifth (128 points) in the NCAA wave, Cal Poly Humboldt was sixth (60 points), and Montana State Billings finished seventh (48 points).
Sophomore Olivia Ebenstein (13th) and freshman Coco Diemar (21st) also scored for DU, while sophomore Avarie Faulkner placed 22nd and senior Stormy Hegg came in 38th. Graduate student Melissa Funes was the second Pioneer out of the water with a time of 9:35, but she didn’t finish the race after crashing on the bike.
In front of Funes was Ebenstein, who completed the 800-meter swim in 9:12 and was about 30 seconds behind the leaders heading into the second sport. Ebenstein as well as Harita and Normand were able to climb up the field in the 20.7-kilometer bike ride and were part of the front pack for the final 5K run.
In a sprint to the finish, Normand was able to edge Amber Schlebusch of Arizona State for sixth place before three other Pioneers followed her across the line in the next 28 seconds. Normand posted her fastest-ever splits in an NCAA 750/800-meter swim (9:37) and 5K run (19:50), bettering her times from last season’s national championship (10:46, 750-meter swim) and Eastern National Qualifier (20:04, 5K run).
“When we got on the run, which is usually my weakness, I was able to hang on with the top three girls for a while before being passed by two others, but I was able to hang on with them,” Normand said of her race. “I was in a sprint finish at the end, but I was able to get it. So It was a good race.”
McKinley had one of the biggest jumps of the day after being 23rd following the swim. She posted the 14th-fastest bike time at 32:22 before recording the fifth-fastest run at 19:22 to earn her seventh-straight top-10 finish.
Arizona State’s Naomi Ruff (1:01:57) won the race and was joined on the podium by 2021 individual national champion Kira Gupta-Baltazar of San Francisco (1:01:59) in second place and Sun Devil teammate Alex Coursol (1:02:06) in third.
The Pioneers wrapped up the weekend of competition on Sunday morning as they hosted the inaugural Mile High Relays on the DU campus. The 200-meter swim and 1-kilometer relay featured Denver, ASU, USD and USF and was held at the El Pomar Natatorium and around the adjacent sports fields of the Ritchie Center.
Oktoberfest DU Finishers
- Clara Normand, 1:02:44 (9:37/31:43/19:50)
- Elizabeth Harita, 1:03:10 (9:35/31:44/20:15)
- Freya McKinley, 1:03:23 (9:48/32:22/19:22)
- Olivia Ebenstein, 1:04:12 (9:12/32:10/21:19)
- Coco Diemar, 1:06:59 (9:47/32:32/22:56)
- Avarie Faulkner, 1:07:45 (10:42/33:40/21:16)
- Stormy Hegg, 1:15:07 (13:12/36:48/22:55)
Did Not Finish: Melissa Funes (9:35/DNF bike)
Did Not Start: Nadiya Linde-Elmhirst (illness)
NCAA Women’s Individual Top-10
- Naomi Ruff, Arizona State, 1:01:57, 53 points
- Kira Gupta-Baltazar, San Francisco, 1:01:59, 52 points
- Alexe Coursol, Arizona State, 1:02:06, 51 points – designated as non-team scorer
- Heidi Jurankova, 1:02:17, Arizona State, 50 points
- Liberty Ricca, Arizona State, 1:02:30, 49 points – designated as non-team scorer
- Clara Normand, Denver, 1:02:44, 48 points
- Amber Schlebusch, 1:02:46, Arizona State, 47 points
- Elizabeth Harita, 1:03:10, Denver, 46 points
- Ella Kubas, South Dakota, 1:03: 14, 45 points
- Freya McKinley, 1:03:23, Denver, 44 points
NCAA Women’s Team Results
- Arizona State – 233 points
- Denver – 212 points
- San Francisco – 195 points
- South Dakota – 173 points
- Black Hills State – 128 points
- Cal Poly Humboldt – 61 points
- Montana State Billings – 48 points
— Ron Knabenbauer / Denver Athletics