Win Back Nationals!
By Bettina Younge
April 2002 (Boulder, CO) – Memphis, Tennessee is the new location for Collegiate Nationals, and CU is getting ready to rock the town. While we will miss Wildflower, it will be a great experience to go to nationals without worrying about missing final exams during that time. The race in Memphis – hosted by the same event staff as the Memphis in May Triathlon – will be open only to collegiate athletes. The Collegiate Nationals has grown tremendously over the last few years, with more than 500 athletes competing last year; the promoter is expecting more than 600 athletes from across the U.S. in 2002. Sixty of these athletes will be traveling to Memphis from Boulder. And, after finishing second last year, the CU Buffs are aiming to win more than one national championship title this year.
As in recent years, a number of national championship competitions are at stake: Overall Team, Overall Men’s Team, Overall Women’s Team, and Overall Male and Female Individuals. Determining the Overall Male and Female Individuals is simple: the fastest person wins. To determine the best Overall Men’s and Women’s Teams, the times of the fastest three males and fastest three female finishers of each school are added together, and the team with the fastest combined time wins. Similarly, the Overall Team will be the fastest combined time of the top three men and top three women.
Since nationals doesn’t coincide with final exams this year, the team will have time to use a more affordable mode of transportation – the bus. We’ll leave on Wednesday evening, April 17, for our 16-hour journey to Memphis. With a scheduled breakfast stop and a quick run to loosen up the legs, we expect to arrive in Memphis on Thursday afternoon in time to set up tents at the campgrounds, put together bikes, and take a test ride. Friday will go by quickly. The team will register, preview the course, and try out wetsuits in a lake swim (a first for many of the competitors). Saturday is the big event; the race will take the athletes through the usual Olympic distance – 1.5-km swim, 40-km bike, and a 10-km run. The athletes will start in waves of 60 to 80 competitors and will first brave the cold waters of Patriot Lake. The mostly flat, 40-km bike – three loops of 8 miles – winds through the city streets around Shelby Farms. The final leg – the run – will be one 10-km loop on paved paths. The race will start with an “elite wave” – each school is allowed to designate their top athlete (or in our case – one of our top athletes!) to race in that wave – which should make for some fast finishes.
What national championships are the Buffs targeting? It’s no time for modesty. This year, CU has the potential to sweep all of the categories! In the Male Individual category, Chris Valenti, who recently spent two weeks training with the national team, will be a tough athlete to beat. With an increasingly faster swim, an outstanding bike, and an even faster run, he will be accelerating all the way to the finish line. Chris is our pick for national champion in the men’s competition, and he will be competing in the elite wave. Backing Chris will be Lucas Llado and Keith Jackson, who both placed in the top 30 last year, along with Kai Costanzo, Andy Feeney, Bill Baker, Blake Ottersberg, and Armando Galarrago. We are also excited to see some of our strong freshman compete in their first Collegiate National Championships – keep your eyes open for Justin Caskey, JP Henry, and Davin Anderson. These competitors will combine their strengths to put in a strong bid for the win in the Men’s Team competition.
The women’s competition should prove to be equally exciting. Kerrie Wlad, our top finisher from last year, has logged an even better training season than last year and will represent the Buffs in the elite wave. We’ll also have a surprise in store-a “secret weapon” in one of the later waves. Sara Tarkington, who several years ago won Junior Nationals and represented the U.S. in two Junior World Championship competitions, recently returned to triathlons after running with the CU Buffs Cross Country and track teams for two years. Other schools will have their work cut out for them trying to beat Kerrie and Sara. The main competition will come from Florida’s Sara McLarty, an old nemesis of Tarkington’s. The women’s team will be rounded out by “old-timers” Amber Rydholm, Erin Huck, and Molly Nickerson – all three have been top team scorers for CU. Sunny Gilbert and freshman Jaime Sisler, who have shown great potential, are new additions to the team. Needless to say, the women’s team has the strength and depth to lead the pack this year. Combined, the men’s and women’s team will be tough to beat for the team championship title.
We would like to thank our sponsors for their support in our quest: Boulder Center of Sports Medicine, Smartwool, Rudy Project, Louis Garneau, Runner’s Choice, Aegis, Mickey C’s Bagels, Atlas Snowshoes, Total Trainer, and Zipp Weaponry.