Triathletes spur one another on as they gear up for this weekend’s Patriots Festival
Using the success it experienced last season as a springboard, Liberty University’s triathlon team has hit the ground running — and swimming and cycling — in training so far this semester as it gears up for its first competition.
“We had an amazing season last year,” sixth-year Head Coach Heather Gollnick said of the Flames’ second-place showing at the USA Triathlon Collegiate National Championships held in Malibu, Calif., in the fall and sixth-place showing at spring nationals in Gainesville, Ga. “We have a lot of athletes coming back. They trained really hard over the summer, and we’re really pumped for the season and excited to get started right away.”
The Flames and Lady Flames will open the fall season this weekend at the Patriots Triathlon Festival in Williamsburg, Va., where they can compete in Olympic-distance (1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer cycling stage, and 10K run on Saturday) and sprint (750-meter swim, 20K bike, 5K run on Sunday) triathlon races.
“We’re excited to see how all of that summer training pays off,” Gollnick said. “The benefit of having a triathlon right away is being able to test ourselves and then come back and figure out what they still need to work on and be able to sharpen all of their skills before (the Oct. 15 Mid-Atlantic) Conference (Championships at Smith Mountain Lake State Park in Huddleston, Va.).”
As a freshman newcomer to triathlon, Elizabeth Brower placed 20th at fall nationals in the Olympic-distance race with a time of 2 hours, 26 minutes, 7 seconds and 38th in 2:20:06.64 in the spring nationals. She has come a long way in the sport in a short time and is inspiring others to follow her path.
“I started triathlon last year and I knew nothing about the sport, and now I’m going into my sixth or seventh triathlon and I feel a lot more comfortable,” Brower said. “We just all need to build on that momentum and learn a lot through each race and then by conference and nationals just be ready to go fast.”
Senior Jared Hoober has witnessed steady improvement in his and his teammates’ performances throughout his career.
“Every single year, my team and I have been getting better and better,” Hoober said, noting that the team culture has facilitated that progression. “Every single year we’ve just become closer as a team and our amazing coach has put in so much work to make that happen. I’ve seen such a transformation in how many team bonding activities we do and extra team Bible studies. It’s been super cool as the program’s grown to see all the fruits of that.”
“The culture of the team has been something really important to me,” Gollnick added. “We want to be making sure everyone’s on the same page with communication and our goals and, more importantly, the support we give each other”
Brower said that a spiritual focus is evident in the way the Flames and Lady Flames train and compete for Christ and their teammates, rather than themselves.
“The culture we have here is really special, so we’re excited to keep growing that, both in our relationship with the Lord and also in our athletics (performance),” she said.
Video edited by Kylee Lilge/Club Sports Video & Media Coordinator