Triathletes take top honors at Nationals

    Towering over their competition at the USA Triathlon Collegiate National Championship, UCSD graduate students Brendan O’Brien and Amanda Felder eluded the pack to take first in the men’s and women’s races, respectively, in Lake Havasu, Ariz., on April 16. Their teammates’ strong finishes supported the individual champions, prompting the UCSD men’s team to come home with second-place awards while the five-member women’s squad merited a third-place finish.

    Returning to the course for a half-Ironman distance event on May 1 at Lake San Antonio, Calif., the Tritons turned in an eighth-place finish at the Jamba Juice Wildflower Long Course Triathlon.

    Leading the way for UCSD on May 1, O’Brien finished the 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile cycle and 13.1-mile run in two hours, two minutes and 36 seconds to take first place in the collegiate overall results — more than two full minutes ahead of the second-place finisher.

    The second UCSD finisher, graduate student captain Daniel Derkacs, finished the last leg of the race just under 12 minutes behind O’Brien, for a 13th-place time of 2:14:20. Rounding out the top three for the Tritons men’s team, senior Chris Burnham tied for 28th place in 2:27:07.

    Felder dominated the women’s race, taking first in her division with a time of 2:18:39, and 17th place in the collegiate overall results. Her performance was almost seven minutes ahead of the second-place female finisher — a margin greater than any other two competitors — as she dominated the field.

    At the Collegiate Nationals on April 16, for the first time in the history of the event, a male and female competitor from the same school garnered first place awards.

    O’Brien finished the first leg of the race, a 1,500-meter swim, just under the 19-minute mark in a pack of five athletes who were all vying for seventh place as they entered the first transition. He maintained pace and remained in the thick of the front pack through the hilly 40-kilometer bike section, taking just over an hour to complete the phase before a smooth transition to the 10-kilometer run. Charging across the course and averaging 5:11 miles, O’Brien moved forward to complete the race 39 seconds ahead of the second-place finishers.

    Derkacs combined a 22:21 swim, a 1:05:11 bike and a 36:19 run for a total time of 2:05:30 to finish second among the Triton men and 25th overall.

    Graduate student captain John Burke finished the race in 81st place after a 24:20 swim, a 1:08:51 bike and a 34:58 run to turn in a complete time of 2:14:02 and round out the top-three finishers for the UCSD men.

    Felder made an early push on the swim leg of the race, leaving the water in second place before overtaking first position with a swift transition to the bike. In the run, she continued to distance herself from the trailing pack. By the completion of the event, Felder established a 2:30 lead on second place and turned in a time of 2:11:23.

    The Jamba Juice Wildflower Long Course Triathlon event was the Tritons’ last appearance of the successful 2005 campaign.

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