New and old Buffs shine in early-season races

By Caryn Maconi on October 11, 2012

Originally published in the Colorado v. Arizona State home football game program

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Less than two months into scheduled team training, the defending national champion University of Colorado Triathlon Team is looking strong in fall competition.

The triathlon team, a club sport at CU, is one of the most successful teams at the university, having won 13 national championships since its beginning in 1994. The Buffs have won the USA Triathlon Collegiate National Championship overall team title for the past three years under head coach Mike Ricci and are aiming for a “four-peat” come April.

Members of the CU Triathlon Team relax after a strong performance at the Desert’s Edge Triathlon. (Dave Sheanin)

In early-season races this fall, new freshmen and transfer students are showing promise alongside the team’s top returners.

At last Sunday’s Desert’s Edge Triathlon in Fruita, Colo., the Buffs battled an unexpected cold front and raced well despite the chilly morning conditions. Athletes wore jackets and gloves for their pre-race preparations, waiting to shed their layers until the final minutes before the race. But at 8 a.m., nonetheless, the first wave of competitors jumped into the frigid Highline Lake.

Two new Buffs earned first and third-place finishes in the men’s Olympic-distance race, which consisted of a 1.5-kilometer swim, a 40k bike and a 10k run. Graduate student Davide Giardini took home the men’s title with a time of 2:07:01, and junior Lutz Koller earned third in 2:07:35.

In the women’s Olympic-distance race, senior nationals team veteran Tess Amer earned third place overall in 2:22:58. Amer finished less than six minutes behind Susan Wiliams, the first U.S. triathlete to earn an Olympic medal with a bronze in Athens in 2004. Sophomore Brittany Warly, a transfer student and former Division I tennis player at Santa Clara University, also raced well, finishing ninth with a time of 2:39:51.

The Desert’s Edge Triathlon also offered a sprint-distance option in which the Buffs earned three top five finishes. Graduate student Matthieu Talpe and senior Mathew Wolford, both new members, earned second and fifth respectively in the men’s race. Junior Bryn Morales, a nationals team veteran on the women’s side, finished second overall in the sprint

In late September, the Buffs also competed in the sprint-distance Oktoberfest Triathlon in Longmont. Four CU men finished within the top 10 overall, as juniors David Bobka and Drew Greaves, Giardini and Koller took the fifth through eighth spots. Amer took home the women’s title at Oktoberfest, and Warly finished in fifth overall.

For the Buffs though, early-season races are not all about victory. The club sport setup means that students both experienced and new to triathlon are encouraged to join. Whether an individual’s goal is to represent the Buffs at nationals or simply to complete a first triathlon, each teammate is pushed to new limits through training and racing with the team. Several athletes who had only joined the team at the start of the fall semester competed in Oktoberfest or Desert’s Edge as their first-ever race, and their accomplishments will be celebrated as much as those who took home medals.

National titles are won by the entire team, not just by those racing in the championship event. Through months of killer swim practices, chilly bike rides and grueling runs, each athlete pushes another to reach his or her potential. As the team suffers together through practice after practice, a sense of camaraderie is built that far outlasts the glory of a single victory.

By the time April’s national event rolls around, the fourteen athletes racing for the team represent the hard work and effort of a much larger group, and the title belongs to the team as a whole. The collegiate experience gives triathlon, which is an individual sport at the professional level, a team dynamic that makes success much greater than the individual.

Follow the CU Triathlon Team’s progress at www.cutriathlon.com or follow on Twitter at @cutriteam. The Buffs’ next major team race is the Mountain Collegiate Triathlon Conference Championship in Lake Havasu, Ariz., in March, where they will look to defend their conference title against teams from the Air Force Academy, Colorado State University and other surrounding collegiate programs.

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