Five men, six women in USA Triathlon collegiate nationals
April 20, 2016 | Stokesdale, N.C.
In preparation for this weekend's USA Triathlon Collegiate National Championships hosted by Clemson University, members of Liberty University's men's and women's triathlon teams raced through some extreme weather conditions in two events held this month.
At the Virginia Maryland Triathlon Series-opening Smithfield Sprint Triathlon on April 2, Flames graduate Joseph Anderson finished first among collegiate men in 47 minutes, 5 seconds, and Lady Flames junior Megan Merryman placed second among collegiate women in 55:27, capped by the fastest run time of 19:41.
The event included a 750-meter swim, a 20-kilometer cycling stage, and a 5K run, with triathletes completing the course in a torrential downpour.
"There were thunderstorms later in the day, but they still held the race, and it actually ended up being a lot of fun to race through the rain," said Liberty Head Coach Parker Spencer, the race's overall winner in 46:57, eight seconds ahead of Anderson. "Everybody enjoyed that and had a good time."
Flames freshman Travis Fehr, from Ontario, Canada, placed third among collegiate men and 10th overall out of 293 participants in 50:03.
"Travis has really come a long way and he really surprised me at that race," Spencer said, noting his debut with the Flames last fall was his first open-water swim. "He had a very strong showing and his hard work has really started to pay off. Now, he's one of top guys on the team. He's a strong swimmer, and he's getting stronger and stronger every week.His bike time has improved and he has really blossomed as a runner."
On April 9, the team traveled to the Belews Lake International in Stokesdale, N.C., where weather was again a factor.
"It was very cold and very windy and five minutes before the start of the race, they canceled the swim because it was so dangerous," Spencer said, noting that race officials turned it into a duathlon of two 5K runs with a 27-mile cycling stage in between.
|Liberty graduate Joseph Anderson runs through a downpour at the April 9 Belews Lake (N.C.) International.|
Merryman won the collegiate women's race in 2:12:24 with the fastest time in the second 5K, (21:23), the second-fastest time in the first 5K (21:17) and third-fastest time on the bike (1:27:12). Anderson, meanwhile, finished second among collegiate men and fifth overall out of 220 triathletes in 1:48:19.
Fehr placed eighth among collegiate men (11th overall) in 1:57:03 while sophomore Dillon Lesniak came in 15th (31st overall) in 2:08:28.
"It was one of the worst conditions I've ever experienced for a triathlon and I was proud of our team for getting through it," Spencer said.
Liberty will take 11 of its team members to the USA Triathlon Collegiate Nationals — five men: Anderson, Fehr, Lesniak, freshman John Davenport, and freshman Adam Williams; and six women: Merryman, senior Rachel Walters, sophomore Rachel Caton, junior Madeline Griffin, senior Jess Gibson, and freshman Sarah Parker.
Merryman will be the only Liberty triathlete racing in Friday's Draft Legal sprint race in addition to Saturday's championship event that will start with a 1,500-meter swim followed by a 40K cycling stage and 10K run on new courses after last year's event had to be rerouted due to a "5K Color Run" being scheduled on campus on the same day.
This will be Anderson's fifth and final time competing at collegiate nationals, so he may have an experience advantage on the competition.
"Joey's been training very hard," Spencer said. "His bike and run are at all-time bests right now and he's maintained his swim. I'm looking forward to seeing him race there once more."