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Davis, California

Friday, April 12, 2024

Triathalon team takes full squad to Nationals for the first time ever

Completing a triathalon will leave you with a burning in your lungs, searing pain in your legs and that delightful crunch in your hair from too much chlorine exposure. In some ways, triathlons require the perfect athlete, someone who is talented in three areas of exercise and has the willpower to push themselves through such an arduous race.
Since its inception in 2002, the UC Davis Triathlon Team has been full of Aggies who devote most of their year to training for these races.

The club is led by fourth-year coach John Hansen who has been a prominent figure in the sport for over 35 years. He is a former triathlete and a respected coach who has helped students complete triathlons of all levels, including the coveted IronMan World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.

He started the UC Davis Tri Team about a decade ago, and UC Davis considers this team to be part of the program’s “first generation of triathletes” to compete in a collegiate triathlon division.

“My goal for every team, every year is for athletes to have the experience of being on the team, getting involved in a great sport and participate in at least one race per season,” Hansen said.
The Davis squad competes as part of The West Coast Collegiate Triathlon Conference (WCCTC), alongside Stanford, Cal Poly Pomona and several other UC schools. Each school hosts a triathlon race every year.
“Athletes are not required to race but I think it’s important that everyone participates in at least one race,” Hansen said. “Races are a great chance for the athletes to see how their training has worked over the year.”

Collegiate triathlons are “sprint” triathlons, composed of a 500-yard swim, a 12-mile bike ride and a 5K (3.1-mile) run. The season lasts from February to May but the club starts training in September. The team’s workouts are drawn up by Hansen and he ensures that each triathlete spends enough time focusing on each aspect of the sport.

Workouts can be focused on swimming, running, biking or core strength. Hansen also develops “brick” workouts which consist of stacking two of the three segments into one workout, such as a bike-run workout.

“The hardest part of being on the team is managing the logistics of training and school, sometimes even a job as well,” Hansen said.

“In terms of actual training, I think the hardest part is improving on a sport that you’re weak at. It’s key to improve the technique and stamina for a sport that an athlete struggles with.”

The team works to develop a strong base of conditioning during Fall Quarter and uses Winter Quarter to ramp up the speed and intensity. Racing season lasts most of Spring Quarter so Hansen gives his team tempo workouts which are aimed at keeping them in shape without exhausting them during the season.

Hansen leads two workouts a week while student coordinators lead the others. He usually focuses on leading a swim workout during the week and a long distance bike or run workout during the weekend.

The team is an all-inclusive club that welcomes athletes of all levels to join. There are no tryouts and practice sessions are not mandatory. Some members joined the team for the exercise and the motivation that team members provide.

“The team is always looking for new people to join; new membership is really what perpetuates the team. It also helps build the cohesion and talent amongst our athletes,” Hansen said.

This year, UC Davis qualified a squad to the USA Triathlon Collegiate National Championships for the first time ever. The top seven men and top seven women shipped off to Tuscaloosa, Ala. to represent UC Davis in this year’s race. The women combined to score 23rd overall while the men ranked 25th overall out of 150 teams.
“This was our first year taking a full squad to Nationals and it’s our goal to do it again next year,” Hansen said. “We also want to place the men’s and women’s squads in the top 20 next year.”
Next year’s team president, third-year Sabrina Swift, has many of the same goals as Hansen.
“The main goal is increasing our membership. We’re always looking for new teammates to come work out and compete with us,” Swift said.
“Competitively, our main goal is to get back to Nationals. We want to take another squad and place higher so that’s our biggest goal.”
The team is also focused on the home race that they host as part of WCCTC competition. Hansen wants to see them improve their conference rankings, and performing well in Davis will help them achieve that. UC Davis was in 11th place in the WCCTC before they headed off to Nationals but after their performance in Tuscaloosa, they managed to finish in eighth overall on both the men’s and women’s sides.
“We have a good chance of placing top 20 next year. It will be a great season and everyone is welcome to come out and join us,” Hansen said.

KIM CARR can be reached at sports@theaggie.org.

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