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    April 23, 2016 Clemson, S.C. RSS |

    Liberty University women's triathlon junior Megan Merryman capped a phenomenal season with two top-25 finishes at the USA Triathlon Collegiate National Championships, held Friday and Saturday at Clemson University with a record 1,350 competitors.

    A year after being the first Lady Flame to cross the finish line, 163rd overall, Merryman repeated that feat, only at a much faster 21st-place pace of 2 hours, 26 minutes, 52.46 seconds. She saved her best performance for last, completing the 10-kilometer run in 44:14, the ninth-fastest time in the field of more than 500 female triathletes.

    "That was great," Liberty Head Coach Parker Spencer said after Merryman completed the 1,500-meter swim 88th in 23:55 and the 40K cycling leg 56th in 1:16.13. "It was definitely a huge jump (from last year and in the race). She came off the bike in 49th place and passed enough girls to get 21st."

    In Friday's Draft Legal Challenge, Merryman experienced a slow start in the water, finishing the 750-meter swim in 12:11, 40th out of 42 starters. She was therefore unable to draft off of any of the cyclists and completed the 19.6K cycling stage in 32:42, also 40th fastest in the field. But she passed 17 triathletes to moved up to 23rd place overall with her fourth-best 5K run time of 19:23 (6:14 mile pace) for a total time of 1:07:22.47.

    Merryman could qualify to compete in the NCAA Division I Draft Legal Women's National Championships in November with a strong showing at the Oct. 15 Mid-Atlantic Conference Regional Championships hosted by Liberty at Smith Mountain Lake.

    "Now that she has two of these (draft legal) races under her belt, she definitely has the experience to compete at that level," Spencer said.

    Liberty graduate Joseph Anderson did not compete in the draft-legal race, as he had the past three trips to nationals. But he still showed signs of dehydration in the mid-80-degree heat during Saturday's championship event after having a water bottle fall off his bike early in the cycling stage.

    "He had a really rough race," Spencer said. "He was really struggling to keep a fast pace on the run and had to walk through the aid stations (to rehydrate). He basically used up all his energy during the bike race. Had been on the bike so long without any calories that he hit that wall and bonked."

    Anderson still finished first among the Flames' five men, and close to the top 10 percentile overall — 83rd out of more than 800 men's entrants and 773 finishers in 2:12:30.32.

    Freshman Travis Fehr placed 136th in 2:17:01.94, moving up more than 60 places in the 10K run, which he finished in 41:43, the 71st-fastest time overall.

    "Travis has really come a long way and he has continued to improve week by week," Spencer said. "It was exciting to see his hard work pay off. He did really well."

    Liberty sophomore Dillon Lesniak placed 319th in 2:32:41.62, two-hundredths of a second behind Georgia Tech's Bradley Blaho, while Flames freshmen Adam Williams — who competed in his first race three weeks ago — finished 501st in 2:48:30.75 and John Davenport 551st in 2:55:21.24.

    "It was a good day for the team although it was a really tough course, with a lot more hills than last year," Spencer said. "This just shows that people are building off the fitness they gained this season and with the recruits we have coming in, next season looks even brighter."

    For the Lady Flames, sophomore Rachel Caton was the second-fastest finisher, 257th overall, in2:57:30.54, followed by junior Madeline Griffin (283rd in 3:00:27.16), seniors Rachel Walters (293rd in 3:01:55.47) and Jess Gibson (401st in 3:24:36.48), and freshman Sarah Parker (434th in 3:34:50.56).

    "Adam (Williams) and Sarah (Parker) competed in their first national races," Spencer said. "It was definitely a shock to the system in an Olympic distance race. They were really just focusing on finishing, but they both did great."

    Complete results are available online.


    By Ted Allen/Staff Writer