Triathlon Collegiate Club Nationals: UCLA

2014 Nationals Runners Up look to take top honors at Nationals

Answers:  Coach Brady O’Bryan

UCLA Head Triathlon Coach

It is difficult to say how deep the competition will be at collegiate nationals this year.  The lack of a centralized hub for collegiate triathlon news makes it very difficult to know what the competition is like in other parts of the country.  It is safe to say that the major powerhouse teams, Cal, Colorado, Navy, Army, etc. will still be fighting for each of the team championships. Arizona is also a team to watch out for this year, they look like they have a solid team on both the men's and women's sides this year. A nod should go to Texas A&M as well, they have been creeping up the results every year and had an outstanding showing at UCSD's Tritonman in February.

Favorite's for the men's race are Bill Jones (UCSD) and Steve Mantell (Colorado State), they took 2nd and 3rd last year respectively.  It's not clear whether or not Rudy Von Berg is racing this year from Colorado, but he'd be the favorite for the win if that's the case.  UCLA's own John Mering (UCLA) is a favorite here and we definitely feel that he has all the tools necessary to pull off the win.  For the men's team competition, its going to be a tight race again between Colorado, Arizona, Navy, UCSD and hopefully UCLA will be in the mix as well. I know Arizona's number 1, Sasha Romanenko, was absent from their conference meet where Colorado took the win, so it should be pretty interesting in Clemson. Sasha has been coming out and racing a bunch in California conference races this season and took a few wins back to Tucson.

On the Women's side, Liz Noey (UCLA) will be returning to defend her title in the Olympic distance and Kelly Kosmo (UCLA) will be looking to back up a win at the inaugural Women's Varsity National Championship with a win in Clemson. We're hoping not to miss a beat from last year despite losing 3 of our top 5 women from 2014. Rachel Lenz (Colorado) looks like she has improved her swim and bike significantly from last year so she it should be a tight race between her and Liz for the win in the Olympic.  Bria Edwards (Penn State) is another to keep an eye on, she challenged Kelly for the win in Claremont, but was edged out tactically on the bike.  She has a swim and run that is as good as any in the field though.  Arizona has a trio of strong women: Molly Supple, Laura Haley, and Erica Clavenger who all have the capability of finishing top 10.  If they can get a fourth girl in, they could challenge for the women's title.  Colorado was able to triumph in the Women's Team Competition at MCTC championships against Arizona so they will obviously be players as well.  Navy had a handful of strong women in Claremont as well so we're not going to sleep on them either.  

The one thing you can count on at Collegiate nationals is that it will be filled with dark horses, though, and, until there is consistent coverage of collegiate triathlon, predicting how the event will turn out is extremely difficult.

RM:  How important is the team concept in each event?  How is that communicated to the Club?

BO:  At UCLA we view the team performance as the only goal.  It is often tough in a sport that is mostly an individual effort to balance the goals of the individual and the team, but I think that you'll find that problem is pretty much non-existent at collegiate programs around the country.  Collegiate triathlon is an extremely team based both in training and racing.  The only way to build a competitive collegiate triathlon team is to harness the support of the entire team to bolster the individual athlete. Training for and competing in triathlon in college without that daily support from peers would be extremely difficult. Our success is directly tied to our pursuit of a collective goal.  Fortunately, the members of the UCLA Triathlon team don't need this fact to be communicated to them. Racing and training as a team is not a concept, it is a necessity.

RM:  How has the growing success of Collegiate Triathlon impacted your program?  New opportunities?

BO:  The biggest change over the past year, since the vote to make Triathlon an NCAA Emerging Sport for Women, has been the number of high school athletes inquiring about our program.  We also like to think that this has something to with our success at Collegiate Nationals over the past few years.  In order to help accommodate this growing interest from high school athletes, we have started a youth summer camp for triathlon at UCLA.  We are very excited about continuing to grow the camp and hope that it will allow us to continue the pipeline of elite student triathletes at UCLA, as well as inspire other collegiate programs to create similar opportunities for high school athletes in their regions.

RM:  How is the health of the team leading up to Nationals?

BO:  Our scoring squad is looking healthy, prepped, and ready to take another shot at the title.  Being at the top for so long is tough and we feel that it's time someone relieved CU of the burden.

RM:  How effective were the exhibition events in 2014 in preparing athletes for the 2015 Club Collegiate Tri season?

BO:  We sent a few girls down to Claremont for USAT's first stab at hosting a Varsity Women's National Championship.  It was tough to organize the trip on such short notice, but the UCLA Women who made the trip felt that it was important to show our support for the Women's Triathlon Initiative.  Unfortunately, there is push back, even from within the triathlon community, with regards to NCAA Women's Triathlon.  But, Clermont was a gathering of individuals that see the sports potential. We see NCAA Triathlon as the next step for the sport and understand the added visibility and excitement it will bring to all levels of the sport in the US.

Despite being a small field, the race between Bria and Kelly was very interesting and Kelly gained valuable experience and confidence in pulling off the win. I expect those two will be the favorites in the draft legal Women's race in Clemson.

RM:  What was the key moment for the team this season?

BO:  Three years ago we started a tradition of heading up to Sunriver, OR for a training camp every September before Fall quarter begins.  Everything about those two weeks is amazing and it's a significant change of pace from training in Los Angeles.  The key moments for the team occur there, before school even starts, where the bonds that hold us together for the entire year are formed.

RM:  Considering your home base, do you foresee any issues or complications with the venue in Clemson, S.C.?

BO:  Training and racing on the West Coast has the potential to make you a bit soft when it comes to weather.  We have some southern California natives who are visibly shocked at the sight of rain.  However, excellent conditions year round certainly makes putting in the miles easier, plus the climbing in the LA area is fantastic.  We're looking forward to a tough bike course in Clemson.  With somewhere around 1300 feet of elevation gain, the bike leg will be much more decisive than in Tempe.  Hopefully the weather holds up, but if it's rain, I am confident that the team has the maturity to excel nonetheless.

RM:  Which event does your athletes most look forward to and why?  Olympic, Mixed Team Relay

BO:  Personally, I find draft legal racing much more exciting and fulfilling from a coaching perspective.  There is no other level of triathlon that has the same potential for team tactics as team-based draft-legal triathlon.  I think that is what makes the prospect of NCAA Women's Triathlon so compelling.  You'll have squads of 5 or 6 with 3 members scoring. With each team utilizing the unit to set up their top scorers for the run, the racing on the bike will look more like pro road racing than ITU style racing. Some might disagree, but I believe that if NCAA Women's Triathlon is successful, it will be largely due to its distinct hybrid nature as both an individual and team based sport.

RM:  Do you prefer draft-legal racing to non-draft? Why?

BO:  We have a deep women's team and we were able to use it to our advantage last year in the draft legal event. This year the women will again be racing as a unit to try and achieve the best result for the team.  On the men's side we have less depth so we are relying pretty heavily on John to come up with a good results in the Draft Legal and be able to follow it up the next day with a strong performance in the non-draft. We're confident he's up for the challenge.  

RM:  Any special "Thank You's" you would like to make for all those that helped this season?

BO:  We would like to thank the entire UCLA Club Sports Staff for being so supportive of the all of the team's endeavors, our sponsors Bike Improve, Bell Helmets, Roka Sports, and Bonk Breaker for providing us with the tools to win, and finally the parents and alumni who provide the necessary morale and financial support that keeps the team growing and excelling, year after year.

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