Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Triathlon team has big appeal


The fastest growing club sport at UC Santa Barbara isn’t beer pong, it’s triathlon -- the grueling multi sport discipline that has more than 100 members and grew in membership by more than 25 percent this year.
Mateo Mercur, coach of the UCSB Triathlon Team, said the increase in the sport’s popularity on campus isn’t due to an influx of endurance athletes there, but more to the growing acceptance that pretty much anyone, if they put their minds to it, can finish a triathlon.

“If you take on the training with a long-term vision without overdoing it, you can do it,” Mercur said. “The word on that has spread at the university.”
But aside from personal conviction, the triathlon team makes it easy to participate as a first timer. Mercur said 22 bikes are available for first-year team members to rent out for the team’s season, which begins in February and runs through April.
The availability of a good bike, which could cost thousands of dollars if purchased, allows first timers to get acclimated to the sport before spending loads of money, Mercur said.
Mercur, who has been the team’s coach for the past two years, puts training programs together for the athletes and competes as well.
Last Sunday, Mercur and five of the team members competed at an Ironman length triathlon in Henderson, Nev. The UCSB teams -- one made up three men and the other of a coed group -- finished second and seventh, respectively.
Mercur said the Nevada course was one of the most difficult around, with hilly run and bike sections and a choppy swim in Lake Mead.
Triathlons vary in distance. At the collegiate level, athletes usually compete in sprint of olympic distance triathlons. The sprint triathlon consists of a 500-meter swim, 12-mike bike and three-mile run. Olympic distance is a one-mile swim, 25-mile bike and 6.2-mile run.
The Ironman distance, which Mercur and the other athletes tackled last weekend, piles up a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mike bike and 26.2-mile run, which is also a full-length marathon.
Mercur did the swim for the all male team, J. Ritterbeck had the fastest running split of the day at 3-hours and 14-minutes and Craig Sellers clocked the third fastest bike time of the day.
On the coed team, Daisy Sereno did the swim, Chris Morris rod the bike and Catherine Newell ran.
According www.ucsbtriathlon.org, anyone in the UCSB campus community can be a member of the team and City College students can participate as well. The only hitch is that one has to be an undergraduate or graduate student at UCSB in order to score points for the team during a competition.
Mercur said the club started in 1987, which makes it one of the oldest and largest teams in at the collegiate level in the country.
He said last year at the national meet in Tuscaloosa, Ala., 42 team members competed, which tied with another school for the largest turnout. At that meet, the UCSB squad finished 9th out of a 77 team field.
But competition aside, the triathlon provides an opportunity for students and faculty to get involved with a group and fit at the same time.
“So many of these people are beginners,” Mercur said. “The team has taken a lot of creative steps to make the sport available to a whole wide range of people.”
Ritterbeck said one of the enticing things about the team are the sponsors, which sometimes offer discounts on products.
He said some of the sponsors include the Santa Barbara Running Company, Specialized bikes, Hazard’s Cyclesport and Channel Islands Chiropractic.
The team will host their own event, the UCSB, Kendra Chiota Payne Memorial triathlon, on March 30. The race is open to the public.
While some in the club are there for competition and others are there for recreation, the one thing most will be able to say for certain is that it’s healthy way to have a good time.
“It’s been fun to see it grow,” Ritterbeck said. “It’s just contagious.”
More information about the triathlon team is available at www.ucsbtriathlon.org.

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