UPDATE: Flames finish fifth, sixth in Draft-Legal Sprint
April 27, 2018 | Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Liberty University freshman Giovanni Bianco from Italy and sophomore Thomas Sonnery-Cottet from France finished fifth and sixth, respectively, in Friday's Draft-Legal Sprint at the USA Triathlon Collegiate National Championships in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
They crossed the finish line two seconds apart in 44 minutes, 20 seconds and 44:22, respectively, in the duathlon event that started with a 2.5-kilometer run followed by a 20K cycling stage and 2.5K run. Bianco earned 230 points towards the men's team's total to put the Flames in fifth place out of 108 schools going into Saturday's Olympic-Distance race, set for 10:10 a.m. (CST). That event will award the winner 500 points all the way down to the 500th finisher picking up one team point.
Complete results are available online.
Flames among favorites at 'duathlon' national championships
|Thomas Sonnery-Cottet will be one of the Flames' six men's triathletes joined by seven Lady Flames in Saturday's Olympic-Distance championship race.|
Due to high water levels and dangerously strong currents on the Black Warrior River, it was announced on Tuesday that the races for this weekend's USA Triathlon Draft-Legal Sprint and Olympic-Distance Collegiate National Championships in Tuscaloosa, Ala., will now be duathlons with running-cycling-running stages rather than triathlons with swimming-cycling-running phases.
Friday's Draft-Legal Sprint will now start and finish with 2.5-kilometer runs around a 20K cycling stage before Saturday's Olympic-Distance race will begin and end with 5.2K runs with a 40K bike route in between.
"It's a different race now," Liberty University third-year men's and women's triathlon Head Coach Parker Spencer said. "It definitely changes things for us quite a bit. Thomas (Sonnery-Cottet) and Bobby (Hammond) are two of the strongest swimmers in the field so that's a big blow, but we do have some really strong runners and bikers."
Sonnery-Cottet, a sophomore from France who placed sixth after being the first swimmer out of the water in last year's Draft-Legal Sprint triathlon, also held in Tuscaloosa, will be seeded second out of 75 competitors in Friday's race. Spencer will switch out freshman Giovanni Bianco, an Italian duathlon national champion, for Hammond in that event. Bianco was the last of the Flames to qualify for nationals by placing second overall at the April 14 Belews Lake (N.C.) Sprint Triathlon.
That event, expected to draw over 750 men's athletes, awards twice as many team points (500) to the overall champion as the Draft-Legal winner (250).
"We are definitely bringing the most competitive team we've ever taken to nationals," Spencer said. "The field size is about the same as last year, but the competitiveness is on a completely different level. I've got a lot of confidence in my guys and have no doubt we can contend for a national championship."
Queens (N.C.) of Charlotte, which, along with defending national men's champion Navy, defeated the Flames at the Oct. 14 Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships hosted by Liberty at Smith Mountain Lake, could be the favorite to end Colorado's eight-year run as men's and women's combined team national champions.
"Queens will be our biggest competition by far because they've got a lot of depth," Spencer said, noting that Maximillian Sperl is one of only two contestants in the field who has beaten Sonnery-Cottet. "I've now got three other guys on Thomas' level training with him, so it will be interesting to see how it plays out. Our guys are in really good shape and I'm excited to see them put their fitness training to the test."
Senior Madeline Griffin, juniors Sarah Parker and Shannon Wade, sophomores Laci Clark, Abigail Blanchat, and Heather Ziebart, and freshman Rachel Fulford will represent the Lady Flames, who may not have any individuals contend for top-20 finishes but should be in the running for a top-20 team showing. Spencer plans to enter Parker and Ziebart in Friday's Draft-Legal women's race.