TEMPE, Arizona — Colorado State University’s Hayley Belles, Meghan Smith and Katrina Lems earned the first podium sweep in USA Triathlon Collegiate Club National Championships history on Saturday afternoon in Tempe, Arizona. The Rams dominated the women’s Olympic-distance race, while Queens University of Charlotte was unstoppable in the men’s race, led by individual champion Jack Felix.
About 1,200 collegiate athletes from more than 100 club teams competed in the marquee event of Collegiate Club Nationals weekend. The Olympic-distance course was centered at Tempe Beach Park and featured a 1,500-meter swim, 41-kilometer bike and 10-kilometer run.
Rachel Zilinskas of the University of Minnesota had the top women’s swim of the day, exiting the water in 19 minutes, 2 seconds. The University of Florida’s Nicole Stafford was not far behind though, overtaking the Minnesota athlete in transition.
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Andrew Epperson ran 2:13 in Beppu, Japan this month to qualify for the Trials a third time.
Even when the temperatures dip below 20 degrees in Fort Collins, Colorado, Andrew Epperson heads to Colorado State University’s outdoor track at 6:30 a.m. to warm up before the sun rises. The 28-year-old marathoner, who works as an assistant cross-country and track coach for CSU, sets off around the snow-lined oval, picking up the pace as he begins a long tempo or speed intervals.
He finishes his workout around 9, just in time to meet the team for morning practice.
“I think my training reinforces my coaching, because I understand the ups and downs of practice and racing,” Epperson told Runner’s World. “I’m just as excited to run as the people I recruit.”
Epperson’s enthusiasm for the sport has paid off tremendously in his races. Earlier this month, he finished Japan’s Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon in an Olympic “A” standard time of 2:13:11, shaving nearly four minutes off his personal best. Helping push him towards a PR was a speedy field that included Morocco’s Hicham Laqouahi, who won in 2:08:35.
“I had a lot of fast guys to run with,” said Epperson, who placed 18th overall. “We really lucked out on the day and the conditions. The course was flat, the sky was clear, and even though the final 15 miles were along the ocean, there was no headwind.”
USAT COLLEGIATE CLUB AND HIGH SCHOOL NATIONALS TUSCALOOSA, AL APRIL 27-28, 2018
Go to any high school or collegiate contest and you notice the unmistakable energy of youthful athletes and fans. School chants, fight songs and air horns fill the air, while flags, mascots and costumes create a visually vivid landscape. This weekend’s USA Triathlon Collegiate Club and High School Nationals delivered an experience that was exponentially more electric than your typical collegiate competition. A rolling sea of team tents covered 1100 athletes from 109 colleges. Schools from coast to coast brought their school spirit, competitiveness and the best demonstrations of sportsmanship at what is arguably the highest level of competition for High School and Collegiate triathletes.
While they competed fiercely for individual and team standings, athletes gave each other high-fives and hugs at the start and finish lines. They encouraged each other on the course and celebrated in the post-race ice bath pools. For all the competitive grit, sprint finishes, and gut-wrenching efforts, the culture of triathlon was evidenced in encouragement on the course and concern at the medical tent.
Due to heavy rainfall in Tuscaloosa the past two weeks, the Holt Dam spillway gates were opened by local officials to avoid flooding. Heightened volume in the Black Warrior River necessitated that the gates remain open through race weekend, resulting in overly strong currents that were deemed unsafe for swimming. USAT officials announced a course change mid-week. All races will be shifted from a triathlon (swim-bike-run) to a duathlon (run-bike-run) to ensure athlete safety.
Colorado teams had a great showing. At the Olympic distance, CU’s Men’s and Women’s teams came in second to the Naval Academy and UC Berkeley respectively. CSU Women placed 5th and Men 9th. USAFA Women came in 11th and Men’s 12th. Colorado School of Mines Women came in 47th and Men 55th. Combined scores put CU in 2nd, CSU in 7th, USAFA 9th and CSM in 49th.
CU Buffs Roy Madrid and Timothy Winslow finished 2nd and 3rd behind the University of California’s Sean Harrington, who took the Men’s race with a 1:33:58. The Women’s champion was Stephanie Murphy of US Naval Academy and CSU’s Katrina Lems was Colorado’s first Woman in 8th place. In the High School contest, Austin Podhajsky and Jack Deweerdt from Parker, Colorado took 2nd and 3rd respectively behind the Male winner Drew Shellenberger. Cassidy Hickey of Parker, Colorado took 2nd behind the Female winner Gillian Cridge.