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Texas Tech is hoping the home course advantage will help them improve on their 36th place finish from 2008.
Texas Tech is hoping the home course advantage will help them improve on their 36th place finish from 2008.
photo: Texas Tech Triathlon Team

Texas Tech Looking for Home Course Advantage

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Close to 1,000 athletes are just over a week away from descending on Lubbock, Texas for the 2009 USA Triathlon Collegiate National Championship.

Lubbock has become a hotbed for multisport over the past two decades, especially due to the growth of the Buffalo Springs Lake Ironman 70.3 and the hard work of Scott Harrison and VisitLubbock, Lubbock Sports.

The Texas Tech Triathlon Team is hoping the home-course advantage plays out and they can improve on their 36th place finish from a year ago when the event was held in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

USA Triathlon had a chance to talk with TTU Triathlon Team member Mark Rudich, a 21-year-old junior from Sugar Land, Texas about his team and the upcoming National Championship weekend.

What is the history of the TTU Triathlon Team?

The team is fairly young, only in its second year. There were others who started a team years ago, but it wasn’t able to continue over time. Today, it’s in its second year and it continuing to grow and expand.

Who started the team?
Last year, a team member by the name of Nathan Hansen got the ball rolling after he saw that there was a lot of interest from the students following a triathlon the Rec Center puts on each year. He and other members including Mark Rudich, Charlie Gremillion and David Preston made the team what it is today.

What is your role on the team?

Many people hold different roles on the team, so not just one person has sole power or say of one thing. It’s more of a team effort. David Preston is our president, I, Mark Rudich, am the secretary, Abel Perez is the treasurer, and Charlie Gremillion is our coach. Also many of our team members hold positions that keep the triathlon team functioning.

How many members are on the team?

Right now we have about 30 members on the team, with about 20-25 who actually compete with us.

What are your thoughts on serving as honorary hosts of collegiate nationals?

None of us ever would have thought that USAT would have chosen a town like Lubbock to host such a huge event, but we are thrilled that we are allowed to share the triathlon community of Lubbock with the rest of the country.

What is special about the championship course in Lubbock?
The championship course here in Lubbock has everything that a triathlete would want. A spring fed lake to have a fast swim in, a fast, yet challenging bike course, and a great run in the canyon after. Lots of flat land, good climbs, uncontrollable wind, fast downhill’s; it’s the perfect race for a championship.

What advantage does your team have at this year’s event?

Living in Lubbock, the entire triathlon team has a great advantage because everyday we get to train on the terrain that we will be racing on in a few weeks. We all ride the bike course and the surrounding land each week giving us a great advantage. We also get to experience the wind here in Lubbock each day, which really helps because people outside Lubbock don’t really understand how much the wind plays a factor here.

What experience will the athletes from the other colleges and universities have in your town during the weekend?
If you have never been to Lubbock before, then what you can expect is a great west Texas feel. Some might consider Lubbock to be in the middle of nowhere, but the town has everything one could want.

Talk a bit about the talent level of the athletes on your team. Who are the athletes to watch on your team? Any shot at individual titles?
Our team is made up of a lot of different athletic levels in the sport of triathlon. A lot of our team has a cross country background making athletes like Will Brewer and Drew Roberts ones to watch for. We are also made up of insane cyclists like Cam Mencio and JP Barrandey who I would be watching for to break the top 100 and maybe get lower than that. Our President, David Preston, will be doing the 2012 race and we think he has a great shot to compete in that race with all the top athletes. On the girls side Ashley Messoline is one to watch for. She is a great cyclist and runner who will give all the girls a run for their money. Overall, all our athletes will be competing to do their best and Texas Tech will have a strong showing no matter what.

What are your chances of winning or placing among the top teams?

There are a ton of great triathlon teams from around the country that will be competing here, so judging where our team will end up is tough. All I know is we are going to be competitive.

How has your team/individuals fared at earlier National Championships?
We competed at our first National Championship last year and placed 36th in the country with a team of only 7 guys. We have greatly expanded this year and are only going to get faster and better as the year come.

How involved is your team in training and racing together during the year?
We practice as a team 5 days a week in the afternoon for about two hours and ride on the weekends together as we can. We love practicing with each other because no one can push you harder than your friends and teammates. We all agree that we have more motivation to practice when the team is around. We just enjoy working out together and having a fun time doing it.

Does your team receive much support from the campus administration?
Being a school dominated by football and other big sports, the triathlon team doesn’t get the recognition I think we deserve. I think that will all change in the coming weeks when the schools sees that we are competing at Collegiate Nationals in our hometown of Lubbock and sees how well we fare against the best competition in the country.

What are some of your team's long-term goals?
Our goals as a team are to continue to grow and get bigger and get the sport of triathlon spread around Lubbock and the Texas Tech campus. The more people we can add to our team, the more recognition I think we can gain as a club. As for long-term goals, we want to compete at Nationals every year and continue to get quicker and faster and spread the Texas Tech Triathlon Team’s name across the states.

Where do you hope collegiate triathlon goes on a national level? Could or should it be a NCAA sport or should it remain as is?
I would love to see the sport turn into a NCAA sport. There is so much to offer in the world of triathlon and I would love to see how far it could go.

Overall the Texas Tech Triathlon Team is super excited to have Nationals come to its hometown of Lubbock. To all the other schools coming to Lubbock to compete that weekend, we wish everyone the best of luck and hope everyone has a fantastic race. Keep training hard and get ready for a race you will never forget. You might not have heard of the Texas Tech Triathlon Team before, but after this race you will be hearing from us for a long, long time.  
                    
WRECK EM TECH!!!!

More on the 2009 USA Triathlon Collegiate National Championship

This year’s event is set for April 18 at Buffalo Springs Lake, near the campus of Texas Tech University, and includes a new scoring format designed to create more equitable competition among the 86 teams and more than 850 athletes who have already registered for the championship race.

Among the changes to the 1.5k swim, 40k bike, 10k run event is limiting each full co-ed team to 14 athletes (seven men, seven women) as compared with 20 athletes at past events. Awards will still go to the top men’s team, the top women’s team and the top co-ed team, but the scoring has expanded to include the top four male and female finishers from each team. In addition, an Armed Forces Award has been added to honor the top military school.

“We have some very large teams and some teams with just a handful of athletes,” said USAT National Events Director Jeff Dyrek. “We’ve incorporated these changes to level the playing field a bit, give some of the smaller schools a chance to win, and add some excitement to race day.”

Athletes who aren’t among a team’s top 14 still can participate in the weekend’s competition, thanks to a new sprint race, which already has surpassed 150 registered participants. Another 68 athletes have signed up for the second ever Twenty-12 Talent ID Invitational, an event that will give competitors experience in draft-legal competition. The sprint distance, draft-legal, multiple-loop course consists of a 750m swim, 20k bike and 5k run. This race is open to athletes aged 16 to 34. More details on the race and athlete eligibility is available on the USAT website.

Here is what a few members of the Texas Tech Triathlon Team are saying about the venue and race course:

-- “Buffalo Springs Lake provides breathtaking scenery in addition to a challenging triathlon course. Nestled in an almost secret canyon running through the West Texas flatlands, the Buffalo Springs course provides a good mix of tough climbs, flat areas, and fast downhills.”

-- “Great bike course; killer downhills and climbs, even though it’s the flatland of West Texas.”

-- “Not many people think of Lubbock as a triathlon-friendly place, but those people have never experienced West Texas before. If you thought Lubbock was flat, think again. Buffalo Springs is a hidden gem to a lot of the triathlon world, with a mix of breathtaking climbs, lots of flat land and great downhills for crazy speeds. If you want a race that has it all, Buffalo Springs is the place to go.”

Find out more about the weekend festivities.

Check out the video of the championship bike course on YouTube.

About USA Triathlon
USA Triathlon is proud to serve as the national governing body for triathlon – the fastest growing sport in the world – as well as duathlon, aquathlon and winter triathlon in the United States. USAT sanctions 2,500 races and connects with more than 110,000 members each year, making it the largest multisport organization in the world. In addition to its work with athletes, coaches, and race directors on the grassroots level, USAT provides leadership and support to elite athletes competing at international events, including World Championships, Pan American Games, and the Olympic Games.

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