Bianco leads 1-3-4 LU men’s Olympic finish at Patriots Triathlon
Liberty University’s men’s triathlon team had three of the top four finishers in Saturday’s Olympic-distance race of Patriots Triathlon Festival to pace the Flames to a fantastic overall performance in their season-opening competition near Williamsburg, Va.
Graduate Giovanni Bianco led the way with a blazing finish time of 1 hour, 57 minutes, 41 seconds on the 1,500-meter swim from Jamestown Beach on the James River, and extremely fast 25-kilometer cycling and flat 10K run stages to capture the overall title.
“Having Giovanni back racing is a blessing in many ways,” Head Coach Heather Gollnick said. “He is such a positive role model to everyone on the team, not only from an athletic standpoint, but from a spiritual standpoint as well. He is a tremendous athlete, but an even better person.”
Bianco, a former junior national champion from Italy, competed as an undergraduate and as a graduate student before completing his M.S. degree in Human Performance in 2019. He has taken on new responsibilities with Liberty’s Athletics department since returning to the Flames for his final season of eligibility.
“Getting the opportunity to further my studies and be a spiritual mentor drove me to return to Liberty,” Bianco said. “With respect to the team, Coach Heather and Coach Todd (Gollnick) are amazing leaders and have built an incredible team atmosphere. My teammates are very motivated as well, so we are looking forward to a memorable season.”
Emerging sophomore Jack Pizor took third overall in 2:04:06, exactly one minute in front of junior teammate Max Galbraith, who finished fourth in 2:05:06.
“I’m thrilled with how we raced as a team,” Gollnick said. “Our athletes put in significant training over the summer and it showed today.”
Sophomore Hayden Russell finished second in the Men’s 20-24 category in 2:10:29, followed by junior JJ Bagans (fourth in 2:21:44) and sophomore Ben Bauserman (fifth in 2:22:43).
“I am very proud of Hayden,” Heather Gollnick said. “He was new to the team last year and put in a great volume of training over the summer. His swimming has improved so much, and to see him finish second today in the Men’s 20-24 age-group was awesome.” Among women, Lady Flames freshman Liz Brower completed the course third overall in 2:25:10.
“Liz is new to triathlon this year,” Heather Gollnick said. “She is a runner by trade and has a swimming background. She has quickly focused her training and attention to developing on the bike. To finish as the third overall female at her first triathlon is an amazing accomplishment. We can’t wait to see what the future brings.”
Three other Lady Flames freshmen, all new to the sport of triathlon, formed a relay which took second place in the all-female category. Laney Plimpton led off with a time of 32:08 on the swim leg followed by Emerson White, who completed the cycling stage in 1:30:28, and Leigh Anne Tannar who finished the run in 44:28 for a fourth-place team finish in 2:49:51.