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1998 USA Triathlon National Championships, Clermont, FL

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Sun Shines, Racers Wilt at USAT National Champs
Few sports offer sideline prognosticators as many opportunities to be wrong as does triathlon. Predicting the outcome of a race when weather, course conditions and machinery play roles  as vital as skill is no easy task. This year's national championships made that task next to impossible.
    Athletes pulling into Clermont in anticipation of the race were greeted by 100-degree-plus temps that were helping fan the fires devastating Florida's east coast. At least Clermont, located midway between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, was unaffected by the smoke being featured in satellite photos on the nightly news.
    The pro/junior and age group races were held over two consecutive days with the pros and juniors testing the heat first. That left the AGs torn between wanting to watch the pros or avoid heat stroke the day before their race.
    Seeing Barb Lindquist and Siri Lindley literally run themselves into the ground helped prepare the age group athletes for their race. "Lindquist" and "drink" became two of the most common pre-race words and helped focus most of the age group dramas on factors other than the heat.
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Fred Bartlett, Jr., 40-44, retreats from the heat after qualifying for Team USA and ITU World Championships in Switzerland.

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    Peter Kain, 30-34 and a contender for the overall win, received some of the focus for the wrong reasons. Kain, along with a handful of other riders, followed an errant set of arrows painted on the asphalt and was DQ'd for riding off course. Kain's appeal to race marshals was futile, but the asphalt in question was reported by another racer to have been quickly spray painted.
    Race marshal's also figured heavily in Jeff Cuddeback's return to triathlon and his first master's title. Cuddeback, 40-44, 2:02:49, beat out Tony Schiller, 2:04:26, after Schiller was booked with a two-minute blocking penalty. After acknowledging Schiller's unofficial win, Cuddeback said, "It's great to be back in triathlons. I've been out for four years, and it really, really, hurt today."

Robin Quist, 20-24, prepares to sponge off on the first leg of a long hot run.

Fast women
    Karen McKeachie, 45-49, posted one of the most impressive wins of the day with her best race in years. Her 0:42:51 run erased a two-minute-plus swim/bike deficit and handed her the win in 2:24:44 over Jo Garuccio, 2:27:09. With the end of the race in hand, McKeachie said she eased up a bit on her pace, a bit of relaxation that may have cost her a shot at the master's title.
  A national class runner in college, McKeachie put in 600 miles of May riding to prepare for the early national event. She attributed part of her strong finish to her bike. “This is the kind of course I like," she said. "I like hills.” Being run down by McKeachie did not spoil Garuccio's day. "We placed top five masters," she said of her and McKeachie's race. "I was stoked."
   With her younger sister Karen cheering her on, Donna Smyers, 40-44, took the master's title in 2:24:10, six seconds faster than second place Kelly Molaski and only 34 seconds ahead of McKeachie. Smyers was the beneficiary of  Karen Chequer-Pfeiffer's battle with the sun. With a commanding lead, Chequer-Pfeiffer was forced to walk the last mile to the finish line, placing an uncharacteristic 14th  in  2:34:41.
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Karen McKeachie, 45-49, pulled out her best major race in years to gun down Jo Garuccio and win by over 2 minutes.

Rising star
    Looking to the future, Jeanne Anne Krizman, 20-24, took the overall women's title in 2:15:59. Fourteenth out of the water, Krizman posted a 1:08:59 bike and a 0:40:43 run to beat out Sarah Baker by a minute and a half--good times even if the 100 degree heat is factored out.
    Krizman also won her age group at last year's nationals in her first year of triathlon competition. A meticulous trainer and strategist, Krizman is working to improve her swim and is contemplating turning pro at the end of the year.
   Jason Januzelli, 25-29, anchored his race with a 5:32/mi.  run pace to pull himself up from fifth place and win the men's overall amateur title by half a minute.

the pros


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A Tale of Two Races in Clermont

Barb Lindquist and Nick Radkewich were both first out of the water, but only one would cross the finish line at Clermont.

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Barb Linidquist recovers in the med tent and wonders what hit her while Nick Radkewich sets the pace for others to follow on route to a victory that suggests a good showing at worlds, if he goes.

When Nick Radkewich high-stepped his way out of the tannic-acid-brown water of Lake Minneola, the outcome for his day was starting to take shape. Once he and Wes Hobson teamed up on the bike, it was all but over.
    Working together, Radkewich and Hobson made good use of the hilly bike loop through the central Florida landscape to pull away from the field. The pair entered the run transition with Hobson in front and Jimmy Riccitello just over two minutes back. And, although Hobson was technically first after the bike, Radkewich was clearly the man to beat.

The new American?
    Tim Deboom moved past Riccitello into second place, but Radkewich's 2-minute lead held firm. Looking exceptionally strong and determined, Radkewich's performance may signal his rise to the top of the American men's ranks. Unfortunately, Radkewich, who is disappointed with his previous rankings  in the US, said after the race he may not represent the States at the ITU World Championships in Switzerland. Referring to Switzerland's hilly bike course, Hobson thinks Radkewich should go. "I hope he does," said Hobson. "He's a strong biker."

A different ending
    While Radkewich was wrapping up the men's race, Barb Lindquist had all but licked the envelope on the women's. Looking stronger than she had at worlds in '97, Lindquist turned in the fastest swim--of course--then went out on her own on the bike. The rest of the pack couldn't get its act together to chase her down and she started the run with a 0:01:30 lead.
     Less than two miles from the finish and with her championship in sight, Lindquist weaved and crumpled to the ground. She staggered to her feet and fell once more before she was hauled away into the med tent.

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Jennifer Gutierrez breaks the tape in Clermont. Gutierrez, a full-time teacher, was unaware of her pending victory until clued in by the crowd.

    Jennifer Gutierrez was unaware of Lindquist's problems until she broke the tape at the finish. "I didn't know," said Gutierrez. "All I heard was I'm first. I thought they must not know that Barb's there."
    Barb wasn't there, at least not for a while. Hooked up to a heart-rate monitor, packed in ice and stuck full of IVs, Lindquist had to be told what happened--she didn't remember. "I felt great coming off the bike," she said. "I fell I guess. I don't recall what happened."
    She did recall her biggest concern as she started out on the run, Gutierrez. Gutierrez edged out Lindquist for  top American honors at World Championships seven months earlier.
   In the shade of the med tent Lindquist remained positive about her racing. "I feel that there is a reason that everything happens," she said. "My only disappointment is that I won't be going to the Goodwill Games." (Lindquist did get to go to the games, click on updates at the top of the page.)
    Responding to observations that she looked stronger than she had at worlds, Lindquist agreed. She began with her bike. "I love my bike," she explained (an Australian Cannibal). "I'm a lot better in the hills this year than last year. My run has improved too. I have a lot more confidence in my run."
A hilly bike and a fast run, the ingredients for Switzerland. AG
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