By Jesse Vineyard/GCU Staff
Want to become a triathlete? One can start by not fearing to swim in the rain.
Even as the skies opened up for a five-minute downpour during Tuesday’s swimming session, Grand Canyon University Triathlon Club continued their training for the 2018-19 season. The Lopes only started training together as a team three weeks ago, but already have a successful preseason race under their swim caps. Last Saturday at the Mesa Sprint Triathlon, the Lopes had four athletes finish in the top-25 overall standings, including top-5 finishes for twin brothers and team coaches Nick and Jake Windauer.
Nick Windauer was the top finisher for the Lopes at second overall with a time of 56 minutes and 23 seconds. His brother, Jake, finished just behind him in fourth with a time of 57 minutes and 13 seconds. Both, as junior Pre-Medicine majors and student coaches, are tasked with not only preparing for their own races, but also continuing to prepare the Lopes for their select triathlons throughout the year. During last weekend’s race, the expectations for some in their first race after the summer break – and for some in their first race ever – was limited.
Nonetheless, the results impressed, and instilled confidence in the team moving forward.
“I had goals set for each of them as far as the times I wanted them to make,” Nick said. “Almost all of them went a mile-per-hour faster or several minutes faster than I thought they were going to go. That was really good to see that their training has been working well.”
One of the athletes in his first-ever race was Derik DeFrance, a freshman accounting major from Harrison, Montana. Even with no history of triathlon, DeFrance finished 17th overall in one hour, four minutes and 50 seconds. DeFrance ran cross country and track and field in high school, but had no competitive history in swim or bike. Much like his teammates, he joined the team with a strong interest to compete and stay in shape, and his preparation for the race was the same as anyone else’s on the team, but his goal was a little different for his first-ever sprint triathlon.
“I just wanted to finish without dying too much there at the end,” DeFrance joked. “But it was a lot of fun. It was tiring at the end, but it was a good feeling to accomplish that.”
DeFrance, amongst other first-year athletes, joins a group full of returners. One of whom, sophomore psychology major Kirsten Fotieo, added to her racing portfolio with a finish of 34th overall in a one hour, eight minute, 11 second time. For her first race of the season, Fotieo admitted the nerves caught up to her, but they quickly went away as soon as she jumped in the water.
“It was the first race of the year, so I wanted to do well, but I didn’t really know how well I would do because I hadn’t been training for too long,” Fotieo said. “As soon as I was in the water and on the bike, I could start visualizing everyone. Being there just reminded me of my racing last year.”
The Mesa Sprint Triathlon is just the first of nine scheduled races this season for the Lopes, so the road is long to a positive season. The groundwork started at the end of last season, when Nick and Jake gave the returning Lopes directions on the best ways to prepare for the upcoming season.
“(We) told them to not just do triathlon over the summer,” Nick said. “Go do 10-kilometer runs, half marathons, or just go do cross-training; anything outside that you enjoy so you don’t burn out on swim, bike and run.”
Next up for GCU is Sunday at the Bartlett Lake Triathlon at Bartlett Lake, 50 miles northeast of Phoenix. Despite only training as a team for just a couple of weeks, the Windauer brothers have already liked what they have seen from the team, only adding to the team’s confidence as they enter a new season.
“Collectively, our team is quick compared to a lot of other university teams,” Nick said. “We’re all a tight-knit group and they’re all in really great shape right now. Because we did really well in our first race, they’re only going to get better and better.”