At the beginning of March, a number of athletes from our Manitoba Triathlon Centre left behind snowy Manitoba and headed to sunny Florida to kick off their race season! They had two incredible weekends of racing against some intense competition. After two years of COVID closures, and a long winter of tough training, the team showed their fitness and delivered some amazing performances!
First up was the Clermont Draft Legal Challenge!
On Saturday, Natalie Fournier and Megan Van Heyst raced in the women’s U25 Elite Development Race (EDR). After a challenging swim, both had strong bikes, with Natalie bridging to the main chase pack, putting her in a great position for the run. Natalie finished 26th and Megan 48th in a very strong field! Cole Buxton and Benjamin Szwajcer raced in the men’s U25 EDR event, putting in solid performances and finishing 30th and 53rd, respectively. Impressive performances in a very fast race!! Finally, Blake Harris competed in his first senior elite race, finishing 12th among a deep pool of athletes!
On Sunday, the racing continued with Day 2 of the U25 EDR race. At 28°C, it was bound to be a difficult run, but these athletes rose to the challenge putting themselves in the best position to succeed, with MTC athletes leading off the bike in both races!
Natalie had a 2 minute deficit after the swim, but once again rode hard, worked through the packs and was first off of the bike! Her strong bike was partially the balance of working through a run injury this winter, but she dug-deep for the run to finish in 10th. Megan had an excellent swim, and continued to battle the heat, finishing strong in 28th. Blake had another great race, bridging to the lead pack on the bike, ultimately breaking away to take the lead before the run! He was chased down by several fast runners, but fought to the end, crossing the finish line in 3rd place. Cole and Ben also showcased their training, and had excellent races in preparation for the following weekend!
After a week of training, these athletes were ready for the Junior North American Championships in Sarasota!
Unfortunately, due to a tornado warning, the races on Saturday were postponed, and subsequently shortened to accommodate hosting all events on Sunday. Following the storm, the temperatures dropped, and the junior races were converted from a triathlon to a super sprint duathlon. With a 2 minute run to start the race, nearly the entire field was in the same pack, negating the bike strength of our MTC athletes and it all came down to the final 2.5km run. Blake, Natalie, Cole, and Ben worked incredibly hard to overcome all the challenges thrown at them, and put down incredible races, finishing in 11th, 24th, 35th, and 48th, respectively. These last-minute changes made proper preparation nearly impossible, but they took it in stride, and continued to give it their all.
Sarasota also served as the America Triathlon Para Championships. While it’s challenging for Manitobans to be ready for a big race in March, Leanne Taylor knows something about taking on big challenges!
Three years ago, Leanne and her partner Scott travelled to the Sarasota event that would be Leanne’s first race as a Para Triathlete – the event served as the American Championships that year too. Definitely starting in the deep end, but Leanne was up for the challenge. She finished that event with wide eyes, but a big smile. As she looked at the girls who would be on the podium that day, we’re not sure if she knew she’d be there herself in 2022, but if you’ve met Leanne you wouldn’t be surprised by that result.
In her own words, she returned to Sarasota this year with ‘bigger arms and bigger dreams’ and more than a few races behind her now – from local events to World Champs! Leanne used that experience and made the most of her dedicated training, using a strong performance on the run course to move up to 2nd place and finish on that same podium she looked up to in 2019.
Congratulations to these amazing athletes on a fantastic start to the 2022 racing season! You all made Manitoba incredibly proud!