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GCU Triathlon ‘learns the ropes’ in 1st appearance at USAT Nationals

Club Triathlon member running through finish line at USAT Nationals
April 12, 2019

Windauer brothers help pace Lopes to top-60 finishes for men’s and women’s sides

By: Jim Howell/GCU Club Sports Information Director

“This was a whole different scale, since there were things we’d never seen before.  That made the team feel special.”

Competing for twice the distances of what they were used to, and doing it on a national stage, the Grand Canyon University Triathlon Club forged a pair of top-60 team finishes in its first-ever appearance at the USA Triathlon Collegiate Club National Championships in Tempe Saturday.  The Lopes’ Men finished 47th out of 93 competing teams, while the Lopes’ Women posted a 58th-place finish out of 92 women’s squads.  In addition, Lopes’ Co-Head Coaches Nick and Jake Windauer both finished in the top 25% of the men’s division, Lopes’ junior Hannah McCulley finished among the top 250 women, and five of the nine Lopes’ entrants finished the race inside of three hours. 

The Lopes’ coaches and players had been extremely satisfied with their performances leading up to this past weekend, but knew that all their prep work wouldn’t completely prepare them for their first Olympic-distance race, and the increased numbers of talented entrants they’d see in Tempe.

“When you show up and see that just the swim portion itself is a mile long – and it’s definitely long-looking when you stared at the straightaway – you can imagine that a few of our people got a little nervous,” mused Jake Windauer.  “It was nothing like the race atmospheres that we’d been in before, which were very relaxed.  We just told everyone to take it mile by mile, and don’t worry about what everyone else does.  The course was nice and simple for us, though, and after seeing teams from all over the country setting up their tents, hearing a professional announcer announcing all the races, and seeing fans everywhere cheering you on, everyone seemed to enjoy feeling like this was a big deal.”

After swimming a 1500-meter length, the participants were then greeted with a 41 km cycling portion, and wound up the race with a 10km run.  The swimming portion was even more difficult for the Lopes, since their last two races – the Tritonman Triathlon in February and Lake Havasu’s MCTC Championships last month – were reduced to duathlons due to poor water quality.  The water at Tempe Town Lakes wasn’t all that much better, but the swim proceeded as scheduled, with both Windauer brothers and teammate Derik DeFrance fighting through a packed group of 200 male swimmers to get out of the water inside of 29 minutes.  Nick Windauer’s four-minute lead over his brother getting out of the water shrank to just over a minute after the cycling portion, but he maintained the same pace as Jake during the run to finish with an overall time of two hours, 15 minutes and 36 seconds – good enough for 146th out of 641 participants.  Jake Windauer finished 53 seconds behind his twin in 157th place.  DeFrance also placed in the top 400, finishing in 386th with a time of 2:31:52, while Matthew Penksaw finished just out of the men’s top 500 with a time of 2:54:52 (515th).  Isaac Suffern rounded out the men’s contingent with a time of 3:35:32.

Meanwhile, the Lopes’ Women had plenty of time to cheer on their male counterparts, since the men’s division jumped in the water at 7:30 am, but the women didn’t hear the starter’s pistol until three hours later. 

Which provided an extra disadvantage. 

“They got in the water at 10:30 am, and by that time, it was about 90 degrees,” said Windauer.  “It was super hot, so they were pretty nervous going in.”

That was no problem, apparently, for sophomore Kirsten Foteio, who breezed through the swim in under 24 minutes, which was the 2nd-best swimming time for the Lopes behind Nick Windauer.  Once on dry land, McCulley then began to excel, finishing the bike portion in just over an hour and 23 minutes, and nailing the run in 53:08 to finish with an overall time of 2:56:29, which placed her 248th among the female contingent.  Foteio held her own with strong times in both the bike and run, and narrowly missed the three-hour mark with a finishing time of 3:03:47, which put her just out of the women’s top 300 finishers. Aly Gilcrease stayed within range of her teammates, finishing in the top 400 women with a time of 3:22:50 (397th), and squeezing inside of the top 1000 finishers overall (999th).  Nova Scott came in just nine seconds behind Suffern overall with a time of 3:35:41, which put her at No. 431 among the women.

“Once everyone got out of the water for that first swim, the nerves relaxed a bit, and they got their natural energy,” said Windauer.  “After the race, everyone got their stuff out of the water, and were excited when they got cool finisher medals for what we did.  Everyone felt like they really accomplished something by racing an Olympic length.”

For the coaches, seeing Kilcrease and Penksaw cross the tape for the final time as Lopes not only reflected their accomplishments, but also how the club itself can bring people with different goals together for one purpose.

“Aly has been with the club since before the beginning, and had faith in a couple student coaches (the Windauers) who were much younger than her to lead her and coach her to the fitness level she is today. She always brings fun and laughter to ease the physical and mental work that is training and racing,” said Jake Windauer.  “Matthew joined the club (last summer) to follow a friend, but even after his friend dropped out, he stayed on and fit into the team well.  He started the year not even knowing how to swim or run and ended the year racing two Olympic-distance races!”

The full list of Lopes’ results from the USA Triathlon Collegiate Club Championship are below (in order of timed finish):

Nicholas Windauer2:15:36Men146th146th
Jacob Windauer2:16:29Men157th157th
Derik DeFrance2:31:52Men323rd386th
Matthew Penksaw2:54:52Men515th753rd
Hannah McCulley2:56:29Women248th784th
Kirsten Foteio3:03:47Women301st861st
Alysia Kilcrease3:22:50Women397th999th
Isaac Suffern3:35:32Men616th1046th
Nova Scott3:35:41Women431st1047th