by Sante Kotturi
After laboriously packing their racing bicycles into boxes in hopes of preventing damage while flying, the UCSD Triathlon team traveled to Tuscaloosa, Alabama for the 2011 Collegiate Nationals Championship race.
The team arrived to a very warm, very humid Southern climate, unlike anything we’ve ever trained in. Instead of leaving the hotel bundled in multiple layers as we’ve done all year racing in California, we left in shorts and t-shirts at 6am. The men started first at 7:30am. Bill Jones fought to stay on the heels of the race leader in the water and succeeded on coming out of the water just seconds back after completing the 1500m swim and 0.3 mile run from the water in 18:50min. He finished 1st for the Tritons and 5th graduate student in the nation. Daniel Heineck suffered a mechanical issue on his bike but managed to quickly fix it and get rolling again. He raced very respectably despite the mental blow. Dan Nguyen managed to put down a blazing fast 25-mile ride in 1:02:55, an average speed of 23.7mph. Team Captain, Sante Kotturi and Sophomore William Pandori enjoyed the heat and managed to set personal records coming in 3rd and 5th for the team respectively. Nick DeNezzo managed his race well as the weather started to get really hot and finished 6th for the team. Unfortunately, our youngest star athlete, Francois LePalud, positioned in 3rd on the team, suffered heat stroke at mile 5 of 6.2 on the run course and was unable to continue.
“Bill Jones fought to stay on the heels of the race leader in the water and succeeded on coming out of the water just seconds back after completing the 1500m swim and 0.3 mile run from the water in 18:50min.”
By the time the women’s race started at 10:00am, the mercury was climbing into the high 80s and the humidity was only adding insult to injury. Gina Horath fought the heat and kept it together all the way to the finish line coming in first for the Triton ladies. We would find out later that she had endured a severe case of heat exhaustion and was about to go in shock upon finishing. Joanna Coker, our youngest athlete, suffered an injury two weeks prior to the race but managed to pull out a great race. Anyone who saw her race could see the pain she was struggling with, but we know that once she’s healthy, she will be a force to be reckoned with. Kat Ellis was our first place graduate student and set a new PR in ‘Bama. She demonstrated her running background clearly by running down athletes all the way to the line. Rachel Marcuson toughed out the entire course despite thinking she had broken her foot two weeks prior. She and Coker will have fun showing their full potential once recovered. Reina Kawazoe left it all on the race course, pushing herself harder than she has ever before and setting a new PR. She even managed to smile throughout the day. Michaela Danek showed her strength on the bike by catching Reina despite starting a wave behind. She enjoyed the race, blue hair and all, even managing to stop and pee on the run (at least she was properly hydrated unlike most of the field). Remy Hitt had a great race and was glad to be done, seeing as it was 92F degrees when she finished.
Much ice was used to cool the Tritons along with numerous bags of IV fluid and kiddy pools. The men’s team managed to come in 9th overall, the women’s team in 14th, and the combined team rounded out the top 10 — not bad considering this was a rebuilding year! With their spirits high and this epic race in the bag, the Triton triathletes are looking forward to finishing the season at Wildflower and building on their experiences for next year.