A Championship Effort by Dartmouth Triathlon

This past weekend, ten members of the Triathlon team and one of their coaches, a Dartmouth alumna, packed their bags and bikes and flew over 2,500 miles to Southern California for the 2024 USA Triathlon Collegiate Club National Championship. On their return trip home, they had to carve out a bit more space for some additional hardware.

For a student-run club, the logistics involved in getting eleven people and their gear from Hanover, New Hampshire to Mission Viejo, California is intricate and nuanced. Sydney Savarese '25, the team's race planner, spearheaded the effort. Here is Sydney's take on the herculean effort, "Planning a cross-country race like this was definitely a bit of unchartered territory for our team. There's a lot of technical protocols in terms of qualifications/eligibility that we had to navigate with the race director to ensure everyone was eligible to race. To transport all 10 bikes, we reached out to coaches, friends, and teammates to find people who had bike cases that we could use to bring our bikes on the plane. Beyond that, we had to coordinate air travel, housing, food, and vehicles to transport our bikes to/from airports. We worked with our coaches to make a training plan for athletes competing to follow in the months leading up to the race as well."

For the captains, the team's inaugural trip to nationals has been the pinnacle event in the 10 years since the club was founded.

"This weekend was the culmination of years of hard work. I joined Tri Team my freshman fall and have seen it grow to the biggest, and one of the most active, club sport teams on campus. I am beyond proud to see this team mature and develop every year. Going to Nationals this year, for the very first time in our team's history, is a testament to the dedication that our team puts into the sport day after day, the commitment of our executive board members, captains, and coaches. Training for Nationals was a months-long process that required discipline, as we were training at a high-level, and dedication to proper fueling, sleep, and injury prevention measures. As someone who hadn't done triathlons before Dartmouth, I have fallen in love with the sport, and it is something I hope to continue doing as long as I am able to. I feel extremely happy and proud of everyone who raced this weekend and elated to see the team bear the fruit of our efforts." - Tina Fernandez '24

"To get to Nationals was a dream that we hadn't even known was possible until this year. After 10 years and exponential growth, this team is one of the biggest in the nation and we couldn't be more excited for the direction we are headed. We owe it all to the support that our friends, family, alumni, and coaches have given us over the years and who helped us reach the race. To have the opportunity to represent Dartmouth at the highest level was such an honor and a culmination of my time here." - Spencer Meek '24

"The opportunity to race at Collegiate Club Nationals and be accompanied by such a dedicated, hard-working team was incredible! As a senior and outgoing captain, it was so rewarding to look back on where I was as a triathlete four years ago (a complete beginner) and where the team was as well; over the last four years, my co-captains and I have witnessed the team almost double in size, vastly expand our resources, skills, and aspirations, and become an integral part of the Dartmouth experience for our '25s, '26s, and '27s. Competing at Nationals is a goal we've long had, and our ability to do so this year demonstrates just how far this team has come and how many bright things are in its future! I feel so lucky to have been able to contribute to this growth and celebrate Dartmouth Tri's past, present, and future at Nationals!" - Katie Walther '24

With memories indelibly stamped on an amazing trip we've admittedly buried the lede. Their return to Hanover had a new wrinkle. They had to figure out how to bring home a national championship trophy! First-year student Ben Hinchliffe '27 won the men's Olympic distance overall title.

Below is Ben's race recap:

"The USAT Collegiate Club Nationals has been my focus since the beginning of the fall term. It was a great goal to aim for and to motivate me through my training, and I also knew that the form I would have for the race would set me up well for the rest of my season.

I began my dedicated build at the beginning of Winterim, training an average of around 16-17 hours a week. Whilst I love my training, that load was tough to fit in around school once the winter term began. On those days when I really did not want to train, the goal of nationals kept me focused and was a constant motivator to remind me what the sacrifices were for.

Going into the race I knew I was in good shape. I felt fit but because it was still so early in the season, I wasn't sure I would be very race sharp. Therefore, I was pretty apprehensive of my performance on the day. I knew I would have to rely on my experience of racing through the years to translate that fitness into race speed. Therefore, I tried to keep my pre-race routine as similar as possible, and set up a pacing plan which was specific to the course. I knew I was not going to be in the front wave because I didn't go to nationals last year or the conference championships, so I would therefore not be able to see where I stood relative to my competitors during the race. This changed my strategy from racing to pacing; I knew I just had to pace my effort perfectly, rather than responding to racing dynamics during the race. After that there was not much more I could do than trust the process and give it everything on race day.

Crossing the finish line I was pleased with my performance. Since I was not in the front wave, I didn't know where I stood. What's more the results page wasn't working for a while, so it wasn't until Coach Katie told me that I knew I'd won. At that moment, I felt a mixture of joy and disbelief – it was a moment I'll cherish for a while! The realization of what had happened only really hit me later in the day though, whilst we drove back from our team post-race Chipotle trip!

I took a gap year after high school during which I focused on triathlon. I raced with the goal of getting my pro license (which would allow me to race in the professional field), and achieved half of the qualification criteria. The race distance I focused on was the Middle Distance – or Half Ironman – and that'll be my focus again this summer as I try and finish off the fulfilling on my pro criteria. Despite my background in the sport, the Dartmouth Tri Team has been an immense help this year. Not only in providing me the support and platform from which to race nationals, but also by helping me through my training and providing me with an awesome community of people who love triathlon as much as I do, out of which comes the support and motivation to continue to be the best athlete I can."

Team members who traveled to Nationals:

Katie Cox '25, Valentina Fernandez '24, Kenna Franzblau '26, Lauren Heller '26, Ben Hinchliffe '27, Zoe Holmes '27, Jeffrey McAtee '27, Spencer Meek '24, Sydney Savarese '25, Katie Walther '24, and Katie Clayton '18 (coach)