Standing on what many in Milwaukee know as the Summerfest Rock Stage, USA Triathlon CEO Rob Urbach talked Saturday night about his organization’s mantra: “sharing the win.”
Two victories by Wisconsin athletes, a lauded performance by the host city and the spirited efforts of nearly 3,000 participants exemplified those words in the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships. The course, the locals and the perfect weather all earned praise from a group of amateur athletes that can be described (kindly) as attentive to detail.
Starting from the dock outside the Discovery World Museum, the dedicated and fit participants swam 1,500 meters in the lagoon off the Henry Maier Festival Park, biked 40 kilometers on a course that took them over the Daniel Hoan Memorial Bridge and ran 10K along the sparkling lakefront.
All of them shared the wins with the overall champions in the Olympic distance race: Heather Lendway, 29, of St. Paul, Minn., and Colin Riley, 25, of Cincinnati, Ohio. (Complete results can be found here).
Lendway, a collegiate swimmer who took up triathlons a year ago, finished in two hours, five minutes, 37 seconds. The web developer built a comfortable cushion on the bike leg to outpace Taylor Spivey, 22, of Redondo Beach, Calif., and Erin Dolan, 23, of Lincoln, Neb.
“I had a goal range, and I thought I would have a good shot at the top ten,” Lendway said. “I don’t even know if I’ve processed it yet. I’m pretty proud of what I accomplished.”
Riley also earned his victory on the bike, where he gained more than two minutes on his closest competitors. He finished in 1:52:54, to edge Steve Mantell, 21, of Fort Collins, Colo., by eight seconds. Conner Weaver, 18, of Parker, Colo., was third in 1:53:08.
With racers starting in waves based on their age groups, Riley and the others had no idea where they stood among their competitors until well after the finish.
“It makes it an individual time trial,” said Riley, who mixes training with his studies to be a registered dietician. “I put my head down and went as hard as I could.
“Every second mattered.”
Riley and Lendway were among the 28 athletes – ages 17 to 83 – who claimed age group national championships and gathered for the awards celebration on the Summerfest grounds. They sported well-defined tan lines, muscular limbs and all varieties of race t-shirts, in contrast to the tour wear more often seen at the concert stage.
(Check out Gary D’Amato’s piece in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) for one of the most poignant stories of the day).
Mark Harms, 38, of Madison, and James Burke, 34, of Middleton, won their respective age groups and led a strong Wisconsin contingent in the first USAT national championships held in their home state. Six other Wisconsin athletes claimed top-three finishes: Dave Woida, 46, of Muskego, Clydesdale, 40+; Veronica Loy, 35, of Shorewood, Athena under 40; Lauren Jensen, 46, of Muskego, 45-49; Craig Lanza, 45, of Wauwatosa, 45-49; Cindi Bannink, Madison, 35-39; and Molly Seidel, 19, of Nashotah, 16-19.
Seidel, the celebrated WIAA state champion from University Lake School, called the race and venue: “Perfect, really well put-on.”
“It’s a great step for the city to be taking,” she said. “It definitely made a good impression. People were saying Milwaukee is so cool. It was fun to see all these people here – all these fast people.”
Those people showed pride, satisfaction, camaraderie and exhilaration, according to four-time Ironman World Champion Chrissie Wellington, who handed out medals to the finishers. She had a close-up view of the amateur athletes who “make triathlon special.”
Reviews for the city and the venue were overwhelmingly positive, and not just from the locals.
Tim Yount, the USA Triathlon Chief Operating Officer, asked the group at the awards how many of them reacted to the Milwaukee location with a ‘Milwaukee? Hmmm?’
“We too were impressed with the job they did,” Yount said.
Wayne Mehl, of Sonoma, Calif., finished second in the 75-79 age group and will leave with a positive impression from his first visit.
“I have two friends from Milwaukee and this is them,” he said. “They have a realness. California is amped up. People here have their feet on the ground, there’s a connection here.”
The USAT Age Group National Championships continue Sunday with the sprint distance race and another 1,300 athletes. The championships will return to Milwaukee in 2014.
With top finishes Saturday, athletes earned coveted spots to represent the U.S. at the 2014 ITU World Championships in Edmonton, Canada, set for Aug. 27-Sept. 2, 2014. The top 18 finishers (rolling down to 25th place) in each Olympic-distance age group in Milwaukee qualified for a Team USA slot. Team USA is comprised of amateur athletes who represent the U.S. at each ITU World Championship event.