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Key Takeaways from the 2024 USAT Collegiate Club Nationals: A Recap of the Action

Back in 2011, I raced USAT Collegiate Club Nationals for the first time. The atmosphere was absolutely electric and unlike anything I had ever experienced as a triathlete. In that 2011-2015 era, the number of Olympic athletes was as high as 1700+ and the sport had a lot of momentum. I was lucky enough to participate in the first ever collegiate draft legal sprint race as a "test event" for what eventually became NCAA Triathlon and also raced in the first ever "MTR". Obviously, when NCAA triathlon began as a emerging sport, that meant the Women's side of Club Triathlon would have reduced numbers (and this is a good thing as they now have the opportunity to get scholarships at the NCAA level!).

The Numbers

The number of entries were up this year which is a fantastic sign for the sport! In Georgia 22' there were 867 entries in the Olympic race. In Georgia 23' there were 948 entries in the race. This year in Mission Viejo 24' that number increased to 961 entries. Georgia 2023 had 40 MTR teams and Mission Viejo had 44 entries. The sport has shown small grow post-covid. Great news! *All numbers are via AthLinks Results Tab.

The Good

  • The atmosphere was electric. This is normally the case at Collegiate Club Nationals because you get a large mix of fast athletes and also beginners who just want to cheer their friends on. I really wish that club could race alongside NCAA Nationals (with NCAA as the main event) because the rowdiness and energy of those cheering others on would really help the NCAA level be even more of a incredible event. This crowd was loud, fun, and make the event spectacular in a similar way to the direction that NCAA Swimming has been heading. But obviously, different seasons (Fall vs Spring) make that very unlikely to happen.

  • The DL Course seemed to be challenging but fair. Wide roads, some small rollers on the bike, hilly run, overall it was a challenging but good course.

  • The athletes put on one heck of a show. I heard the course was about 3 miles but we saw it take a 14:55 run split to win the Men's DL and a 16:50 run split to win the Women's DL. Numerous great battles were taking place in multiple races.

  • Parking: Many opportunities to park inside the park or nearby.

The Bad

  • DL Mount Line: shortly before the DL, the dismount line wasn't marked before the race when athletes racked their bikes. It ended up being around a fast paced blind corner at a separate location from the mount line, so something that needed to be marked for athletes to see before the race. As a result, one of the top athletes came around that corner and slammed on his brakes to try and dismount in time, the official said he barley missed the dismount line. However, that never got put on the penalty board. did he gain a advantage: no. Did a official say he missed the line: yes. This was protested and appealed by Queens who lost the protest because you cannot DQ a athlete who's name was not on a penalty board. Later on in the relay, a solid 5-10 athletes missed this dismount line as well.

  • Point to Point Transition in Olympic: having two transitions about 1.5 miles apart is a logistically difficult on race morning. Many teams are on tight budgets, limited car access, so they have to physically ride or run to drop off their T2 run shoes, race belts, etc. National Championships should not be point to point transitions in my opinion. Also, the women's T2 was placed in literal mud due to the rain (men got the concrete), making putting on their shoes quite tricky.

USAT Collegiate Nationals Mission Viejo Transition

  • Packet Pickup: Olympic packet pickup was not allowed until later in the day, so numerous individuals were waiting at the race location after the MTR and stuck on their legs. It started raining at this time, there were talks of punishing it back to race morning (after everyone waited hours) with it being outside, and I had multiple teams say the process was completely unorganized.

  • Men's Olympic Course: Wave 1 of the men got led the wrong direction on the start of the bike course. About 50-60 men all added part of the run section as a result as a potential volunteer (I also heard a Cop?) told them to turn left at the first right turn. Luckily they all went to the end of that road, u-turned around the run cone, and came directly back to the regular course extending their bike course by about 1.5 miles. This equated to about a 3:20 disadvantage (I had a lead group athlete show me their Garmin file). Now, it effected Wave 1 fairly equally so it did not mess up team standings much. However, athletes from wave 2 went the correct direction (as they should) and one of them ended up winning the entire race despite Josh Berles crossing the tape first. And the gap was not near near 3:20ish that the first wave ended up losing. This is what I call a lose-lose situation. I even lost myself a (non-nationals) collegiate race decades ago due to a similar situation with a train. So I am gutted for Josh, and everyone effected on the podium. Thus said, I was disappointed some of the top programs coaches tried to protest that athletes win. You cannot punish someone who went on the correct course, this was a volunteer, official, or course setup issue. It is not Ben Hinchliffe's fault (the eventual winner). Again, lose-lose situation all around that should have never happened. Video below of the leaders turning the wrong direction.

  • The Bike Path (Olympic Bike Course): I warned just about everyone who I personally know to not risk aero bars at the end of the bike course on the bike path. People are often walking on this with dogs and there have been a few crashes at this event in the past in this section (when its a local race not collegiate nationals). Numerous crashed happened here, ambulances were called...

  • No Lead Moto in Olympic: when the leaders came by me there was no lead moto before the 50mph+ section. Remember, this was not a closed course so I found that to be alarming that the leaders on a open course do not have a moto ahead of them to protect them from cars.

  • Drafting Officials: I saw what appeared to be two moto's on the course (my guess is drafting officials) and both were located outside the top 300. If moto's are limited, drafting officials need to be at the top 100 of the men's and women's races. As is the norm, there were some big draft packs that emerged without any penalties.

On Instagram I created a question where individuals could provide feedback. I received a ton of anonymous feedback. The main summary was: awesome venue, awesome energy, sub-par or poor organization (some athletes / coaches felt this was motivated by cheap budgets) all around. Some people found the Olympic bike course dangerous as well.

Overall, I don't think the organization met the standard of a National Championship. However, a lot of these are easy fixes: a few more volunteers, better communication the weeks leading up, alongside pre-race logistics emails. If the race comes back to MV, I hope it is cleaned up / fixed heading into next year.


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