By Jesse Vineyard/GCU Staff
The Grand Canyon University Triathlon Club isn’t new to campus. But there is a renewed sense of energy around the program.
Lopes’ Triathlon Head Coach Malcolm McGuire is a big part of that. Since coming onto campus in August, the first-year coach has built an attitude to put the program at a new level. With the help of returners and Olympic hopefuls Nick and Jake Windauer, the club has already started to see promising growth.
“We started with nine athletes, and went to 18 at the end of last semester,” McGuire said. “The biggest improvement has been quality of the team environment. In my past, I’ve had good students on my teams, but there wasn’t a cohesive team environment, and it wasn’t one where the athletes continuously encouraged each other. With this team, it’s very cohesive, and everyone has a really good time together.”
McGuire is quick to dampen expectations for the team. Despite the increase in numbers, there is no forecast for a national championship. He isn’t expecting to see first-place finishes or nationally ranked athletes during the season. McGuire is honest about wanting to see the team grow their character first before any awards can be earned.
“Overall, my expectation since the beginning has been ‘we’re an all-level team,'” McGuire said. “We have top performers like the twins, and others who are a little more experienced but not necessarily going to win, but they’re going to become their very best.”
The twins that McGuire spoke of are Nick and Jake Windauer. Both helped build the program from the ground up, and both are continually training for a shot at the Olympics. With many first-year athletes on this year’s team, the Windauers have joined with McGuire in helping them adjust to a new sport.
“We have kids who are beginners, and kids like Jake and I who are competitive, and kids in the middle who are going from being done completing triathlons to competing in their age group or competing for actual titles,” Nick Windauer said. “There’s a level for every racer, and we want to make sure they see that.”
The competition the athletes will see this season will be mainly from the west coast. Collegiate competition with athletes ranging in age from 17 to 22 will be part of the field at the races. Starting with Saturday’s Tritonman Triathlon in San Diego, California, GCU will send a few of its best athletes and represent the Lopes for the first time. Over the three-month season, they will have many other chances at triathlons, sprints and duathlons throughout Arizona.
“One thing with the team being new is they’re excited to have matching kits and gear. We’ve never had that,” McGuire said. “They know we can’t do every race this year, but it means a lot to them to do one or two races as a team this year and next year can be even better.”
GCU will also have opportunities at Regionals and Nationals in the spring. As McGuire has said, it would be inspiring to say the least if one wearing GCU purple would gain a shot. The important thing, though, is seeing the team grow to be their best in all areas of life.
“There are many on the team who are just workhorses,” McGuire said. “They work really hard, have great attitudes and that’s just as important to me as one who is a stud.”