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CU-Boulder triathlon team prepping for fourth-consecutive national title, Frozen Foot 5K

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If you go

What: CU Triathlon team fundraiser, Frozen Foot 5K

When: Sunday at 9 a.m.

More info:

CU Triathlon Team Athletes to Watch

Chris Braden: Senior, No. 6 at 2012 nationals

Drew Scott: Senior, No. 5 at 2012 nationals

Michelle Mehnert: Graduate student, former Division-1 swimmer at University of Illinois

Kasia Rasker: Junior, No. 1 in age group at 2012 Hy-Vee U.S. Championships

This year’s University of Colorado-Boulder triathlon team has high expectations after winning the national title for the last three years.

But Tess Amer, president of the team, said she’s not going to let expectations dominate the Buffs’ thoughts this season.

“When you’re kind of known for always doing well at nationals, there’s kind of an expectation for how we’re supposed to do,” Amer said. “But I also try not to stress the importance all the time of winning nationals, because that can be just exhausting and daunting more than it’s beneficial.”

Collegiate nationals aren’t until April, but CU has just one race, the Lake Havasu Triathlon in March, until they swim-bike-run for a fourth consecutive team title.

Coach Mike Ricci said that this year the team is dealing with losing several key competitors to graduation or injuries.

Ricci, who’s worked with the team since 2009, said he’s seen an influx of freshman and sophomore students, many who have either raced triathlons or have some background in swimming or running this season. If the 2012-2013 team doesn’t take a national title this season, Ricci was optimistic about the near future.

“The core of these young kids is going to impact the team in the next couple of years,” he said.

Amer, a senior studying psychology and elementary education, has been competing for CU for the last four years and will graduate after this season. She finished second at Lake Havasu in 2012, and finished 12th at collegiate nationals.

Before becoming president, Amer organized and planned the team’s main fundraiser, the Frozen Foot 5K. Because the team is a student-run club sports team, fundraising is essential to making the team affordable and available to all students, Amer said. The annual fundraiser draws around 300 competitors, Amer said.

“We get funding from the university, but beyond that — all team travel, our coach, paying for the pool — is out of the members’ pockets,” she said.

Another senior and CU triathlon team veteran Chris Braden finished sixth at last year’s nationals. Because of the CU team’s depth, Braden has raced from the second wave for the last three years, something he said he hopes will change this year.

The top two competitors from each team are placed in the first wave, Braden said.

“I’m racing against myself, but being in the first wave will make it a bit easier,” he said.

Winning the individual title would cap off Braden’s four-year career at CU, but he said he was more interested in nabbing a fourth team title.

“I definitely have a lot of pride racing for the team because of our history,” he said. “For some reason, year after year, people get faster, we get new athletes. Every year our team seems to get better and better.”

–Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.