Men’s triathlon experiences program-best fourth-place finish at Spring USA Triathlon Collegiate Nationals
Liberty University graduate triathletes Mark Fairley and Giovanni Bianco finished sixth and seventh in Friday’s 65-man Draft-Legal sprint before Bianco placed fifth out of 890 total competitors in Saturday’s Olympic-distance race. Together, they helped pace the Flames to a fourth-place team showing at the USA Triathlon Collegiate National Championships in Gainesville, Ga.
“The race went amazing, and I am so impressed with the way our athletes competed among the nation’s best triathletes,” Liberty fourth-year Head Coach Heather Gollnick said. “Athletes exceeded our expectations, in particular the guys team that placed out of 67 universities from around the country, including powerhouse schools such as the University of California and the University of Colorado Boulder.”
Last fall in Malibu, Calif., the Flames placed second to lead Liberty to a combined third-place showing against a much smaller field at the USA Triathlon Collegiate National Championships.
Bianco’s time of 1 hour, 47 minutes, 27.77 seconds in the Olympic-distance race that started with a 1,500-meter swim in Lake Lanier, followed by a 41-kilometer cycling stage and a 10K run, was just 4:23 behind the first-place finish of UC-Boulder’s Benedikt Bettin.
Senior Max Galbraith completed his career at Liberty with one of his best collegiate performances, placing 23rd in 1:54:12.56, followed by Fairley (32nd in 1:56:20.93), junior David McCurdy (75th in 2:01:23.28), and sophomore Jack Pizor (89th in 2:03:11.02).
Freshman Liz Brower led the Lady Flames with a 38th-place finish among women in 2:20:06.64 followed by sophomore Mackenzie Foy (54th in 2:26:47.43).
Complete Olympic results are available online.
“It was an awesome experience being able to go out and compete on a big stage while representing Liberty and Christ,” said freshman JJ Bagans, who finished 133rd in 2:07:52.18. “The atmosphere was electric.”
“Each member of the men’s team stepped up and performed at a high level, securing places and points in the final rankings,” Gollnick added. “Our athletes raced hard, supported one another passionately, and represented the love of Christ and our university with class. I love this group.”
Galbraith shared that sentiment, after calling the celebration over the fourth-place team finish a highlight of his career with the program.
“This team was represented by just a few dedicated athletes when I joined my freshman year, but Coach Heather Gollnick has made us into a family,” he said.
Galbraith said the Flames and Lady Flames exceled in the Mixed Team Relay event, with two men and two women completing a super-sprint triathlon — 250-meter swim, 5K bike, and 1.2K run — before handing off to the next teammate.
“Right before the Mixed Team Relay, I prayed for us to race like there was no tomorrow and we crushed it,” he said after Liberty’s eighth-place showing out of 41 teams with a combined time of 1:16:27.
Fairley and Bianco competed stride for stride through the 750-meter swimming and 21K cycling stages of the Draft-Legal Sprint before Fairley pulled away in the 5K run to complete the course in 1:01:01.94, with Bianco following in 1:01:20.16.
In the women’s Draft-Legal race, Brower placed 17th out of 49 contestants in 1:33:55.37, followed by junior Anna Kate Wirsing (23rd in 1:15:24.19).
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer