The University of Colorado triathlon team -- arguably one of the most hardcore club sports teams on campus -- is gearing up for another run at a national championship this weekend.
Fourteen of the team's top individuals will make the trek to Texas for the USA Triathlon Collegiate National Championships, scheduled for Saturday at Buffalo Springs Lake in Lubbock. The race includes a 1,500-meter swim, a 40-kilometer bike ride and a 10-kilometer run.
The Buffs hope to carry momentum from their outstanding performance at the Collegiate Mountain Conference Championships last month into the upcoming race.
In that race, held at Lake Havasu, Ariz., the Buffs dominated the field, placing seven individuals in the top 12 of the men's race and seven in the top 14 of the women's race to claim the women's, men's and combined titles for the second consecutive year.
Cedric Wane led the men's team, finishing first in 1 hour, 55 minutes, 31 seconds and successfully defending his title from 2009. Tate Behning completed the 1-2 punch for the Buffs, while Chris Braden (fourth), Bryant Mason (fifth), Will Nabours (ninth), Todd Darlington (tenth) and Corey Hazekamp (12th) rounded out the team's top finishers.
On the women's side, Ashley Walker also defended her regional title from last year, outlasting the field to finish first in 2 hours, 17 minutes, 29 seconds. Tess Amer (fourth), Ashley Scott (sixth), Laura Greer (eighth), Molly MacInnes (11th), Caryn Maconi (12th) and Jessica Prather (14th) also scored for the Buffs.
Wane said the team performed exceptionally well in Arizona, and the results should be a strong indicator of how the team will fare at nationals.
"Everybody that raced in Havasu last year that went this year raced better," Wane said. "It's a good indicator for nationals -- hopefully we can carry our fitness into nationals."
Jessica Broderick, the overall women's champion at last year's national championships, did not race at Havasu, but is impressed by the team's performance and has high expectations for this weekend.
"The team is looking very strong, and after an awesome performance in Havasu, I think it's very evident that we have what it takes to be in the mix for the win," she said. "I am very proud of how our team performed."
CU placed third overall in the team rankings at nationals last year with 162 points, behind first-place Navy (121 points) and second-place California-Berkeley (135 points). Scores are computed by adding up the places of the top four finishers from each school. On the men's side, Cedric Wane (third), Todd Darlington (26th), Steve Richard (29th) and Bryant Mason (35th) scored, while Broderick (first), Walker (11th), Heidi Spees (19th) and Danielle Russell (38th) scored for the women.
Although the Buffs lost a few key scorers off last year's squad, Broderick believes this year's team may be even stronger and better prepared.
"We have accumulated a lot of young talent this year, and the athletes returning from last year's team have worked at a higher level to make leaps in their fitness," she said. "Together as a team, we are stronger, smarter and more ready."
Wane expects the University of California, Army and Navy will again be the biggest contenders for the overall title, but the Buffs are ready for whatever challenges are thrown their way.
"There are so many talented collegiate athletes that will show up on April 17th ready to rock and roll," Broderick said. "We are very excited to take on the top schools and perform to the best of our abilities."