Between April 19-22, a star-studded cast of 22 Cal Triathletes, 1 Head Coach, and 2 esteemed Alumni (Papa Haas, and TriSexton, who we ran into as they wandered haplessly in their USAT polos around SFO) shipped off to the wonderful city of Tuscaloosa, Alabama for Collegiate Nationals 2012.
Being as studly as they are, the Nats Team arrived in Alabama (decked out in neon bro tanks, no less) with the hopes of bringing home some hardware, which we did. Though the Overall Champions prize was not to be ours (hats off to Colorado, they put on an absolute clinic on how to race), 3rd place overall in the Nation ain’t too shabby. Let me repeat that. 3RD OVERALL IN THE US OF A! Considering how big this event is, this is an incredibly impressive accomplishment.
The race itself consisted of a 1500m dip in the Black Warrior River (how’s that for intimidating), two 20K out-and-back, deceptively hilly and windy loops along said river, and a grueling 10K run in the hot, humid Alabama sun. The girls had the privilege of starting first this year. This meant that the guys SHOULD have been sitting in the tent (the biggest tent in the finishing grandstand, by the way) relaxing, but in customary Cal Tri fashion, the guys ended up being world’s best cheerleaders out on the course for their lady friends.
Highlights from the girls’ epic race are below:
Christie “Curly” Farson (also known by race announcers, and thus everyone in a 20-mile radius as “ex-NCAA-Division-I-Cross-Country-And-Track-Standout-who-is-a-force-to-be-reckoned-with”) finished 4th Overall, and 3rd in the Grad Student Division. Erika “Destroy People” Erickson (aka the “World Champion”) finished 6th Overall, and 4th in the Grad Student Division. Robin “Likes ‘Em” Young finished her Cal Tri career by obliterating the bike and run with top 50 performances in those categories, finishing 3rd on the team and 48th Overall. Melissa “MMM” Miyamoto-Mills came out of a later wave and brought the scoring team home with a solid all-around race in 58th Overall. Jessica “Secrets” Miller (not to be outdone by her roommate Melissa) took names all day in the process of taking 70th Overall. Juliana “Jazzy” Oronos proved that you can teach an old dog new tricks, as she showed her infinite triathlete wisdom and experience in taking 110th and going top 100 on the run. Catharina “Brazil” Giudice showed a bear’s heart by completing not only finishing after a horrific crash earlier in the season, but placing 111th. Anna “Killer” Hiller lived up to her name and crushed souls on the bike, going 77th in that department. Shannon “Sprinkle-Hipzz” Greene… what can we say about her. This girl just finished an Olympic distance triathlon just barely over a month after shattering her pelvis. We don’t want to hear excuses about how much anything hurts ever again. From any of you.
As a team, the Women took 3rd, far exceeding any expectations and (sorry guys) carrying the team to its eventual 3rd Overall in the Land.
On to the guys’ – after watching their better halves issue a challenge to the rest of the nation, it was the boys turn to shine:
Yoni “Sex Lines” Doron-Peters led the men home with a 16th-place Undergrad and 24th Overall finish, and would have been close to top 10 if not for a bogus penalty. Nick “Yea, I Own a Boat” Halkowski used his excellent, 13th-fastest swim to carry him to a 38th Overall finish. Brandt “Sweetums” Champion lived up to his last name and the responsibilities of El Presidente by leading by example and going top 50. More importantly, he was the last of our brave warriors who didn’t get chicked by the #1 girl… Chris “Frodo” Fuentes raced as if he was bringing the ring to Mordor, and anchored the scoring team with a 74th Overall finish, a very impressive (and admittedly bittersweet) cap to his Cal Tri legacy. Mike “Pretty” Knitz improved in leaps and bounds on the bike and run and finished 88th Overall, as well as being the last guy not to get chicked by Ms. Farson. Arthur “Cougar Hunter” Tonelli went top 100 on the swim, which was to be expected, but also showed truly stunning improvements on his weakness, the run, in route to a massive PR. Sam “I Am” Schneider showed why he’s ready to be the next El Presidente by throwing down a solid bike/run combo and an improved swim to top it off. CJ “Mr Fondles” Mishima capped his undergraduate triathlon career with an impressive all-around race, especially on his signature bike leg. Will “Little Panda” Ross represented cultured accents everywhere and flew the flag of the UK across the pond with his all-around performance, Marcus “Drives” Carr didn’t need a car to smoke the bike course on his old Grad Student legs, as he blazed to a 50th-place in the Grad Division. Varun “the Navigator” Pemmaraju did not get lost, an accomplishment in its own right, in addition to providing further proof that he will one day, should he choose to (and he should), be a highly successful duathlete. Raymond “Rayo Mayo” Lee showed grit and determination worthy of a Cal graduate as he completed the run even while suffering hugely. This earned him a well-deserved trip to the med tent and a nice icy kiddie pool. Trevor “Yum-Yum in my Tum-Tum” Lum brought the team home from the later waves with an overall solid performance, rounding out the destruction that Cal left behind on the course.
The Mens Team squeaked on to the podium with a 5th place, meaning they got to show off their rippling muscles under neon green bro tanks to the rest of the country
In any other year, this would be it for the racing. This year, however, USA Triathlon decided to host a SuperSprint Mixed Relay for the first time EVER on US soil. It all sounds like a lot of fun, until you throw in the fact that everyone had already done an Olympic triathlon just before. Nevertheless, Cal zipped up the jerseys and stepped out to do battle.
First off was Erika, who put on her stoic race face and was unfazed by the race leader – Marissa Ferrante from Stanford – who had already won the Olympic race by over 5 minutes earlier in the day. Erika put Cal in a good position – 2nd place – but more importantly within striking distance of our archrivals from across the Bay. From there, Nick took the (metaphorical) baton and closed the gap with a swift swim and T1. The spectators momentarily lost sight of the competitors on the bike course as Cal and Stanford raced neck-and-neck, clearly the class of the field. All of a sudden one extremely aero figure emerged from the shadows at turnaround, and there was Nick flashing the shaka as he opened up a huge gap. As an aside, Varun was intensely occupied in a Tweet-Off with Stanford, and hence “The Big Race” was born.
Ms. Christie Farson was the next to take the reigns, and after a killer swim and bike, Cal was all by themselves. There was a brief moment of scare when it appeared that Christie had seized and cramped up, but she fought through the longest mile of her life and put Cal in the driver’s seat for victory. It was up to Yoni, and with ice-water (or perhaps a lot of Gu) in his veins, Yoni cruised through the course. The team anxiously awaited his arrival in the finishing chute, and when the chiseled face of a hero rounded the bend with no other team in sight, we knew victory was ours. With his favorite jar of Nutella waiting for him at the finish line, Yoni crossed the line and lifted the tape, unleashing a mighty bear’s roar.
And so history was made. That’s right – Cal won the FIRST EVER SuperSprint Mixed Relay held in the United States, and we won it in convincing fashion over 2nd place Stanford and the rest of the country. As Yoni delicately put it to the perplexed interviewers from USAT, “Victory is sweet, just like Nutella.” Not once in recorded history can one remember wiser words ever having been spoken.
Race and success aside, it was an absolutely incredible weekend in all respects, everything from the team dinners and team talks, to exploring the lifestyle and Southern cooking, meeting other schools, and just enjoying some time off from school. The city of Tuscaloosa was completely taken over by triathletes, and college colors were flying and being proudly displayed everywhere. The Nationals Team was truly honored to represent the (in the words of Bobby B) “greatest public university … IN THE WORLD!”on a national stage, complete with our Occupy Nationals shirts and all the rest.
It was a great weekend for Cal Triathlon, UC Berkeley, and for the sport of Triathlon as a whole. Thanks to literally everyone who made it possible – the Nats Team, the Coaches, the Board, USAT, the other teams, the city of Tuscaloosa, the sponsors, and most importantly, the rest of the team who does so much to make Cal Tri what it is today.
Until next year…