Three LU triathletes in top 10 at Mid-Atlantic Regionals
October 20, 2018 | Huddleston, Va.
Liberty University's triathlon teams put two men and one woman in the top 10 of Saturday morning's Olympic-distance collegiate races at the Mid-Atlantic Conference Triathlon Regional Championships, their final event of the fall semester.
This was Liberty's fifth year in a row to host the event, held at Smith Mountain Lake State Park.
"We had a little smaller of a crew than we originally anticipated, but they all raced really well," Liberty first-year Head Coach Heather Gollnick said. "We didn't have enough finishers to score as a team in the men's race, which is disappointing, but we are just going to start rebuilding."
Flames frontrunner Giovanni Bianco, a graduate student from Italy studying exercise science, completed the Olympic-distance course in 1 hour, 56 minutes, 7 seconds to finish runner-up less than one minute behind Queens of Charlotte's Justin Lippert, who won in 1:55:10.
"For Giovanni to finish second overall was incredible," Gollnick said.
Bianco maintained a consistent pace for all three phases of the race, making up for a seventh-place showing in the 1.5-kilometer swim (19:19) by clocking the third-fastest splits in both the 40K cycling (1:00:57) and 10K run (35:10). Those times were still 21 and 50 seconds behind Lippert's second-fastest bike and fastest run splits, respectively.
"During the bike course I went back and forth for first place with (Lippert), but on the run course he was faster," Bianco said. "This is the regionals, so it was the most important race for this fall season and I'm happy. The bike course was really difficult. I prefer the flat courses and the hot temperatures, so I can't wait to go to Tempe, Ariz." The USA Collegiate Nationals will be held in Tempe on April 5-6).
|Max Galbraith crosses the finish line in eighth place.|
Liberty freshman Max Galbraith placed eighth overall in 2:01:34 on the strength of his eighth-place time on the bike (1:02:48) and seventh-place performance in the run (37:17).
Sophomore Chester Cooper collided with another swimmer, forcing him to withdraw after experiencing dizziness on the bike.
Flames freshman Christian Brasher represented his team in the draft-legal sprint and came out of the 750-meter swim in fifth place before finishing seventh out of a total of 16 contestants after the 25K cycling stage and 5K swim in 57:17.
In the women's race, the Lady Flames were paced by junior Heather Ziebart, who finished eighth in 2:23:14 after recording the fourth-fastest cycling stage (1:11:18).
"That was a little faster than I finished at Lake Anna, which was about the same hilliness, but these hills were steeper," Ziebart said of the Sept. 22 Giant Acorn Olympic-distance race. "It was a tough run but there were a lot of very strong runners that helped with pacing."
|Heather Ziebart placed eighth in the women's collegiate Olympic-distance race Saturday at Smith Mountain Lake.|
Ziebart had four teammates pushing her to the finish line: sophomore Rachel Fulford (28th in 2:44:23), senior Shannon Wade (35th in 2:50:22), freshman Carrington Erquiaga (38th in 2:52:02), and junior Chloe Bechtel (44th in 3:02:27).
Freshman Laci Clark competed in the draft-legal sprint, placing sixth out of eight finishers in 1:14:59.
Ziebart has enjoyed training with Gollnick, a professional Ironman triathlete who relocated from Colorado this fall.
"She's been working individually with each of us and she's very invested, tailoring everything to each athlete and where we want to be and the races we want to do," Ziebart said. "We all love her. She's absolutely amazing. We're definitely hoping for a lot of improvement before nationals. We'll start more strength and endurance training after taking this next week off."
Gollnick has acclimated quickly to coaching at the collegiate level after training more than 100 Ironman finishers through her online business in recent years. She is trying to create a friendly but competitive team culture.
"They definitely seemed like they have bonded in the short time we've been here, which is great," Gollnick said. "We'll have to recruit a few more for next semester and figure out around January which athletes we'll take to nationals before we race again in February and early March."
Liberty will send a handful of men's and women's triathletes to Florida for the Clermont Draft-Legal Challenge over Spring Break on March 2-3 before gearing up for nationals.