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The MIT Triathlon Team, composed of full time MIT students, competed in the Northeast Collegiate Triathlon Conference in Lubbock, Texas this past weekend. Other teams involved in the race included those from Columbia University, Yale University, and Boston University. Nine of the athletes, including four undergraduate students, competed in the event. Both the men’s and women’s teams raced well, despite harsh weather conditions that forced the officials to shorten the swimming portion from 1500 meters to 500 meters. Although their season occurs during the end of the summer through the fall, they had even less time than usual to train this year because of bad weather. The team had less time in the spring to train and had limited access to open water for swimming practice, putting them at a disadvantage against other teams who had the opportunity to train year-around.

The competition at the National competition, as expected, was intense. Many of the country’s elite triathletes were competing, and top finishers in the race often go on to become professional competitors. In addition, each school can only have seven competitors for each of the men’s and women’s divisions, so larger schools can have extremely selective teams. The MIT team, however, welcomed the challenge. “I really like strong competition...being faster than athletes from big athletic schools is a considerable achievement, I think,” said Zuzana Trnovcova ’09

The first wave of starters consisted of the top-tier male competitors. Senior Christopher T. Carper ’09 competed in the first wave, completing the swim portion with the fastest time on the MIT team, but suffered from a flat tire on the bike portion of the race — one of several flat tires for the MIT men’s team. Despite these setbacks, they still finished ahead of twenty teams.

The women started off with senior Ariadne G. Smith ’09 in the first heat, followed by freshman cyclist and triathlete Shaena R. Berlin ’13 in the fourth heat. A strong performance by Trnovcova, along with a 14th place overall finish in the run by Kristin D. Schleicher G helped the women finish in 13th place out of 50 teams, ahead of many larger teams.

The MIT Triathlon team is a student-run club. Though they have a swimming coach with whom they practice weekly, most of their training is done without professional coaching. Most team members commit an average of 10–15 hours a week, even though they receive no PE or athletics credit from MIT for their training. Three members of the team joined and competed in their first triathlons — at Nationals. “This triathlon was by far the hardest thing I have physically ever done. However, it is also one of the most outstanding experiences I’ve had in my life. I would recommend everyone push themselves to do the impossible every now and again because the feeling is the greatest in the world,” said Scott T. Landers ’13.

They will continue their season on May 9th, when they travel to the New England Season Opener triathlon in Hopkinton, MA. To help promote the team, they will be hosting the “IronNerd Super Spring Triathlon” event on May 2, at the end of MIT Wellness Week. The race will consist of a 200-meter swim followed by a four-mile bike ride and one mile run. Students and MIT affiliates can sign up online or at the booth during Wellness Week.