Liberty hopes to peak at national championships in Arizona
April 4, 2014 | Tempe, Ariz.
Members of Liberty University's triathlon team will be in the same boat as many of the 1,200 competitors from 119 clubs at Saturday's USA Triathlon Collegiate National Championships in Tempe, Ariz.
Extended wintry conditions prevented the Flames from doing much outdoor training heading into the biggest collegiate race of the year.
"Most athletes are probably not at their best unless they live in Florida, Texas, or California, because they don't have the luxury of going on long bike rides," Liberty Head Coach Beth Frackleton said. "It's a challenge because where we live, we haven't had a spring at all. The past several weeks, they've been doing a lot of high-intensity (indoor) workouts and I'm hoping we've peaked at the right time."
The Olympic-distance course starts with a 1.2-mile swim, followed by a 25-mile cycling stage and a 10-kilometer run.
"If they followed their plan like they should have, the training schedule has prepared them for that distance," Frackleton said.
The women's race starts at 10:30 a.m. (EST) followed by the men's event, in the heat of the day at 1:30 p.m. For the second straight year, the races will be webcast live.
Half of Liberty's 10 team members who flew to Arizona with their bikes on Wednesday have experience from last year's nationals, held on the same course in Tempe, where junior Joey Anderson placed 31st individually and Liberty's men's and women's squads came in 36th out of 104 teams.
"At this point in the game, the training is done," Frackleton said. "It's just a matter of resting up. They'll be putting their bikes together and getting ready."
On Friday night, Anderson will be Liberty's lone representative in a draft-legal sprint triathlon (700-meters swim, 25K cycling stage, 5K run) which could give the Flames bonus points.
"He's going to be at a disadvantage because he's going to be racing the night before," Frackleton said. "But he's in good enough shape that he can do it."
This will be Anderson's third trip to nationals, after placing 45th to lead Liberty to a 19th-place finish out of 122 teams in 2012 in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
"He's hoping for a top-20 or top-25 finish," Frackleton said of Saturday's main event. "I don't know how realistic that is because you just don't know until you get there what the competition's going to look like. We know enough to know our competition is very steep, but because it's so expensive to fly, it's sort of this unknown."
The men's team also features senior Josiah Slaydon, freshman Robert Weisbach,
senior Blake Williams, and junior alternate Jake Ingersoll.
"It's going to be real interesting to see who will get second, third and fourth," Frackleton said. "Blake has the most experience, but we're kind of curious. It could be a tie between the three. It depends on who has the best day."
Team-wise, Frackleton would like to see Liberty improve upon its 36th-place combined showing from last year.
"I hope for the best," she said. "We're sending the five best that we've got (for men's and women's events). As a team, it would be great if we could get top-30."
Liberty is very competitive in the Mid-Atlantic Conference, as it showed when it hosted several MAC schools in a triathlon on campus last fall, but it doesn't race against the rest of the teams in the field on a regular basis.
"The thing about triathlon is there's no NCAA level," she added. "This is it. It's the same for everybody. It's pretty much all a club sport. That's why it's just so competitive."