In an Olympic preview, Major League Triathlon event hits Nottingham Park
AVON — In a sneak preview of the next summer Olympics, a super sprint mixed relay triathlon race took place in Notthingham Park on Saturday, Aug. 4.
It was quite a show.
The Avon event was Major League Triathlon’s second contest of the 2018 season, and was the home event for the Colorado Peaks. The only athlete who could truly call the venue home, however, was Eagle County native John O’Neill, who is a member of the Florida Sun.
The Sun finished sixth in the race, which O’Neill said would be the last of his professional career.
“Watching (the athletes who competed on Saturday) was a snippet of what you can expect in the Olympics in 2020,” O’Neill said.
The Major League Triathlon series, now in its third year, uses a team based league whose teams represent cities, similar to other professional sports in the U.S. Teams are comprised of both men and women, and races feature two men and two women competing in a 300-meter swim, a 4-mile looped bike course and 1-mile run before tagging off to their teammate. The first team to see all four members cross the finish line wins.
The 2018 series started in New Jersey in July, where the Carolina Gliders took the series lead with a win on the boardwalk in Atlantic City.
On Saturday in Avon, the Gliders were upset by the San Diego Stingrays; the teams were separated by a single stride at the finish as Taylor Spivey with the Stingrays and Chelsea Burns with the Gliders sprinted to the finish.
Spivey, who is currently ranked eighth in the world, said the final footrace was symbolic of the whole series in 2018.
“It’s so competitive now, our team really had to work for that win,” she said. “It’s fun when the races are more competitive and it makes it so much more exciting for the spectators.”
The Gold Coast Tritons, of Australia, finished third. Spivey said the fact that there was an Australian team in the competition speaks to the level of competition the league is seeing in 2018.
“I think (Major League Triathlon) has put in a big effort to recruit teams that are not only international, but squad based,” she said. “I think it brings up the level of competition.”
Brandon Copeland with the Tritons said now that the super sprint mixed relay is an Olympic discipline, Australia has been pushing their athletes to explore that format.
“(Major League Triathlon) is an up and coming series with plenty of good athletes, so it is a great opportunity to practice mixed relay,” he said.
‘COMPETING ON TIRED LEGS’
Saturday’s Major League Triathlon competition hosted individual events as well as the team competition.
Copeland and Spivey had both competed in, and won, individual competitions before the main event started.
“We’re all competing on tired legs, but that’s the name of the game in triathlon,” he said.
While O’Neill is extremely familiar with the Avon venue, crediting Nottingham Park and Avon for introducing him to the sport more than a decade ago with the town’s “Dunk and Dash” annual duathlon series, he said getting back to the elevation after training in Florida was a challenge.
“You get out and it and it takes a long time to find your breath off the bike,” he said. “Then somebody comes by and you realize the race is on still. And then that’s what it turns into – cat and mouse – trying to catch your breath.”
The Sun finished sixth after a tough start, where first-leg racer Michael Arishita faced a punishing swim, going out hard but losing energy and coming out of the water last. To make things worse, he incurred a 10 second foul and had to watch from the penalty box as other competitors increased their lead.
O’Neill, who raced in the third leg, entered the water in ninth place and managed to get his team up to seventh place, battling it out with Mexico’s Guardians de Guadalajara.
The Sun’s Kaitlin Donner then brought the team up to sixth place, where they finished for the day.
“It was a good race, considering where we started,” O’Neill said.