Triathletes test waters for nationals at Clermont (Fla.) Draft-Legal Challenge
Twenty members of Liberty University’s men’s and women’s triathlon teams traveled to compete in this past weekend’s Clermont (Fla.) Draft-Legal Challenge, which attracts many of the nation’s top elite triathletes.
“I’m incredibly proud of this team on a number of fronts,” Flames and Lady Flames Head Coach Heather Gollnick said. “Our athletes competed in seven different races over the course of two days and they gave it their all and represented the university with class.”
Liberty graduate Giovanni Bianco, a former Italian sprint triathlon and sprint duathlon national champion, finished runner-up in Saturday’s Men’s National Development Race in 58 minutes, 35.8 seconds, just 5.8 seconds behind overall winner Andy Trouard, a former Northern Arizona University track standout. Bianco led Trouard by approximately four seconds after the 750-meter swim and 20-kilometer cycling stage before being passed on the 5K run.
“He had a solid swim, stayed with the second pack on the bike, and ran himself to the silver medal,” Gollnick said. “It was a terrific performance.”
Sophomore Jack Pizor (18th in 1:00:51.2) and senior Max Galbraith (19th in 1:00.52.5) also posted top-20 finishes out of 74 contestants.
Graduate Mark Fairley surged to eighth place out of 79 men in Sunday’s event in 59:25.7 while Bianco came in 15th, clocking a time of 1:00:16.3, followed by Galbraith (28th in 1:02:04.1) and Pizor (31st in 1:02:16.8).
“I have been nervous about big races like these before, but my coaches and teammates helped me overcome that anxiety and turn it into excitement,” Galbraith said. “Right before the races this weekend, I prayed with the guys on the team and asked God to calm our nerves and race like there was no tomorrow. This was the first race I felt calm amongst the chaos and I was joyful during the most intense parts of the race. This weekend would have been totally different if I was alone. Having the LU TRI family with me made it one of the best times of my life.”
Liberty freshman Liz Brower finished 27th out of 76 entrants in Saturday’s Women’s National Development Race in 1:07:40.5 followed by sophomore Mackenzie Foy (43rd in 1:12:22.6) and junior Kate Wirsing (45th in 1:12:42.1). Brower moved up to 16th out of 64 competitors in Sunday’s second race in 1:10:13.4, followed by Wirsing (26th in 1:14:55.4).
“The vast majority of our men’s team, and two of our Lady Flames jumped up a level this year racing in the highly competitive two-day Elite Development Race,” Gollnick said. “This was a big step up in competition. They took their racing to the next level and it was great prep for (USA Triathlon) National (Championships) April 1-2 at Lake Lanier, Ga.”
In Saturday’s Men’s Elite Super Sprint Cup, featuring a 375-meter swim, 10K cycling stage, and 2.5K run, Fairley placed 11th out of 31 contestants in 28:45.6.
Freshman Garrett Kilmurray finished sixth in the men’s age-group race in 33:14.8 followed by sophomore Ben Bauserman (10th in 34:52.2).
For the Lady Flames, freshman Bella Lang led the way in the women’s age-group race with her 19th-place finish in 39:13.6.
Complete results are available online.
“The trips represent more than just an opportunity to compete,” Gollnick said. “I am always so incredibly impressed with how our athletes represent themselves, the university, and shine the light of Christ to others. On multiple occasions, I was approached by individuals who complemented me on our team, their energy, their support of one another, their sportsmanship. … This is the lasting impact that makes me proud — shining a light for Christ. In the end, it’s the most important thing we can do, being that witness to others.”