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    October 19, 2021 Huddleston, Va. RSS |

    Graduate Giovanni Bianco placed third individually out of 121 collegiate men and women in the Olympic-distance race to lead Liberty University’s men’s triathlon team to a third-place overall team showing behind Queens University and the Naval Academy at Saturday’s Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Triathlon Conference (MACTC) Championships, part of the Kinetic Cup at Smith Mountain Lake.

    Anna Wirsing competes in the cycling stage of the women’s draft-legal sprint.

    “This was the end of our fall season and we won’t be racing again until the spring (Clermont Draft-Legal Challenge) in Florida,” said junior David McCurdy, who placed 18th overall in 2 hours, 8 minutes, 44.2 seconds on the Olympic-distance course that started with a 1,500-meter swim, continued with a 40-kilometer cycling, and concluded with a 10K run. “It was a good day. I finished around 2:02 at (the Sept. 28 USA Triathlon Collegiate Nationals in Malibu, Calif.), but that was a very flat course. This is always a tough course, but we train to be able to do hard things well, and hopefully that shines through with our efforts and our results.”

    In the coed collegiate Olympic distance race that featured an individual time trial start rather than a mass start, Bianco came out of the water with the 16th-fastest time (21 minutes, 48 seconds). He then passed several competitors by clocking the fifth-fastest times on the bike (59:29.6) and in the run (35:36.4) for a combined time of 1 hour, 58 minutes, 41.2 seconds.

    That was fast enough for third place, 10.2 seconds in front of Queens’ third finisher as the NCAA program posted three of the top four finishes in the collegiate Olympic distance race and the top four in the draft-legal sprint (750-meter swim, 25K cycling stage, 5K run).

    Graduate Mark Fairley finished 11th in the Olympic distance race.

    Fellow Flames graduate Mark Fairley finished 11th overall in 2:04:09.3 followed by senior Max Galbriath (14th in 2:06:12), McCurdy, and sophomore Jack Pizor (23rd in 2:11:42.5).

    “(Bianco) and I swam together and then for the first half of the bike, we were somewhat close, but he started gapping me a little and had a good run,” Fairley said. “It was a good race and we fought hard. It was cool to be able to go out there and race for the team.”

    In the women’s race, also won by Queens, freshman Elizabeth Brower was the Lady Flames’ fastest finisher in 2:31:52.6, followed by sophomore Mackenzie Foy (2:35:56.7), junior Anna Kate Wirsing (2:39:39.6), freshman Leigh Anne Tannar (2:46:19.9), and sophomore Allyson Fernandez (2:49:53.9).

    Complete results are available online.

    Freshman Elizabeth Brower was Liberty’s fastest finisher in the Olympic-distance race and the only one to complete the draft-legal sprint.

    The overall showings were respectable considering the MACTC is the toughest conference in the nation.

    Head Coach Heather Gollnick (left) and team members cheer Elizabeth Brower to the finish.

    “Our team trained hard all summer (and) we put 100 percent of our focus into nationals,” Head Coach Heather Gollnick said. “From funding to rewriting the training plans, we peaked for nationals, where our men placed second and we finished third overall. We’re the only school out of the top four schools here (Queens, Navy, and Wingate were the others) that don’t have scholarships.”

    Bianco, Fairley, and Pizor also represented the Flames in the men’s draft-legal sprint while Brower entered her first draft-legal race and Wirsing also competed for the Lady Flames, but Wirsing had to pull out after the cycling stage due to a bout with asthma.

    “Shifting gears, they’ll have a week off and then we’ll go into base training and back to strength training and their workouts change and they’re all looking forward to it,” Gollnick said. “Instead of doing speed on the track and speed in the pool, we’ll be doing hill repeats and long rides on the (Blue Ridge) Parkway and they’re all excited to shift gears and shift focus a little and build strength and then get excited for Clermont the first weekend of March and then (2022 USA Triathlon Collegiate) Nationals the first weekend of April.”

    By Ted Allen/Staff Writer; Video by Patrick Strawn/Club Sports Director of Video & Media