I headed down to Clemson, SC this past weekend to race in my final Collegiate National Championships on April 24th and 25th. The draft-legal race was set to be on Friday morning with the non-draft on Saturday morning. This was going to be the last weekend of my collegiate career, so I really wanted to make it a good one.
The draft-legal race went about how I thought it would. Jones and Nielson had great swims and really got ahead coming out of the water and I settled into the main pack. As we went our pack ended up getting a little too big. When too many riders get together everyone seems to think somebody else will do all the work and then nobody does any work. We couldn't seem to get organized, so the two leaders started to stretch their lead out on us. I knew I could outrun them, but coming into transition I heard I was about 1:05 down. That was a huge gap, but I had to believe I could do it. I took off out of transition sprinting. By the time I got to the first turn around, a little over 1k out, I saw I had already made back about 25 seconds. At this point I felt that the race was mine as long as I didn't blow up. I caught the leader about 1200m out or so and just took off. By the time I was nearing the finish line I had opened up a big gap and knew I could just enjoy the run in. Crossing the line as a national champion was something really special to me. I didn't come into triathlon from any other sport. I have always just been a triathlete, so this is the one race I always looked at that I wanted to win. I've gone through so much to get here, so it was incredibly special for me. When I crossed the line I grabbed my mom and gave her a big long hug. That was the most special part to me about the entire weekend. I got to share it with the people that mean the most to me. I would never have achieved this without my parents supporting me every step of the way. It is because of them that this was able to happen.
The following day I wasn't sure how I would feel after running a sub-15 5k in the draft-legal race, but I woke up in good spirits and the body felt good. This race seemed to play out about how I expected as well. I was about a minute down on the big contenders out of the water and I was able to pull back about 15 seconds on the bike. I left transition 45-50 seconds down on the leaders. I went out pretty hard, but comfortable. I kept clawing back ever so slightly and was able to catch von Berg 5k into the run. As soon as I did, I tried to lose him, but he stuck with me and lifted his pace. As I got down the stretch, my legs really started to go on me. The race the day before was setting in, but I would give it everything I had. With maybe 400m to go, after running an epic 5k shoulder to shoulder bumping elbows at the front of the race, Rudy took off and I had nothing in the legs. It was difficult to watch the win run away from me, but I did everything I could, and I have to give Rudy credit. He is a tremendous athlete and competitor.
The great performances were something I always saw happening and they couldn't have come at a more perfect time. I have spent four years here on the Penn State Triathlon team. Through that I have had some amazing people come into my life, and I have learned so much about myself. I have had so many great people help me over the years just because they saw a kid they really believed in. It has been an amazing journey that I will never forget. As I transition out of this world, I will be traveling to another in just two weeks as I move to Boulder to work and train with some of the best athletes and coaches in the world. It is hard to think about where I started and where I am going now. I need to give a shout out to some important people in my life, Bria Edwards for her 2nd place performance on Saturday and Mike Meehan for his 4th place performances on both Friday and Saturday. The three of us make each other the athletes we are, and I couldn't imagine not having each other. Coming to school here at cold and snowy Happy Valley was the best decision I could have made. I would take us three killing it together all year in cold, snow, sleet, ice, thundersnow (believe it), 14 hours of total sunshine in a month (again, believe it) or whatever mother nature seems to throw at us than have gone to school in beautiful sunshine and not had each other. So, let’s give it one last WE ARE!!!