TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (April 19, 2008) -- Matt Reed and Julie Swail Ertel simply could not be denied in earning their first Olympic berths in triathlon with wins at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in
Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Saturday.
The pair joined Beijing-bound Jarrod Shoemaker and Laura Bennett, who qualified for the team at the first qualifier last September.
On a beautiful sunny day at a venue lined with more than 2,000 fans just off the campus of the University of Alabama, the 11 women took to the course first. And it was Sara McLarty who pushed the pace by gaining an early lead out of the 1.5k swim and onto the bike. After two laps of the 40k course, it was evident this was a four-person race, as McLarty was joined by Sarah Haskins, Ertel, and Sarah Groff.
This foursome stayed together for the remainder of the eight-lap course. The group of Amanda Stevens, Becky Lavelle, Mary Beth Ellis, Jasmine Oeinck and Joanna Zeiger were the chasers, but found themselves falling behind by a minute entering the run. Rebeccah Wassner and Margaret Shapiro came into T2 more than four minutes back.
Ertel, a silver medalist in water polo at the 2000 Olympic Games, saw her dreams at a second Olympic team get closer as she put ever-increasing space between herself and Haskins on each of the four laps on the 10k course. The final margin was 29 seconds, with Ertel crossing the line in 2:02:21. Haskins was second in 2:02:50 and Sarah Groff was third in 2:02:59. Zeiger earned fourth after a strong
run, followed by 2007 U23 World silver medalist Oeinck, Ellis, Lavelle, McLarty, Stevens, Wassner, and
"I think the difference was definitely the run. I took a pretty sizable taper to prepare for this race. I decided
to put all my eggs in one basket because if I qualified now I could go back and train hard to peak in August," said Ertel. "Coming off the bike I felt good, fairly rested. So I wanted to take it out hard and see who came with me. After the first lap, I realized I could be a little more conservative and go for a very
comfortable tempo run. If anybody came, then I had a lot left."
For Reed, it was a refreshing cap to a busy four months, which included the birth of his second child and his gaining U.S. citizenship. The native of New Zealand took advantage of the small 10-man field, using a strong last lap of the bike to put 25 seconds between himself and Hunter Kemper, Andy Potts, and Brian Fleischmann. The race experience of Olympians Potts (2004) and Kemper (2000 and 2004) helped them pull away from Fleischmann, but it wasn't enough to catch the determined Reed, who howed a run that is improving each race.
The race started much like the women's event, with the swimming prowess of Potts staking him to a phenomenal 48-second lead into T1 and out onto the bike. After four laps at the head of the field, he realized he wasn't going to out-bike the chase pack of Reed, Kemper, and Fleischmann and settled back to join his pursuers. Tim O'Donnell, Doug Friman, and Joe Umphenour were the first chase pack around a minute back, with Mark Fretta and Victor Plata evenly spaced another minute and two minutes behind, respectively. Young Manny Huerta, who qualified to compete in the event just two weeks ago, pulled out of the race just 200 yards into the bike.
With Reed's win assured on the run, he enjoyed the final stretch of his last lap with high-fives to the crowd and a triumphant step across the line, while leaving Potts and Kemper to battle it out for second. and it was Potts who had the legs at the end, finishing 20 seconds behind Reed and just four ahead of the former world No. 1 Kemper. Fleischmann grabbed fourth, followed by Friman, O'Donnell, Fretta,
Umphenour, and Plata.
"It started off pretty bad in the swim. I had a bit of trouble with the wetsuit and it was really choppy on the
river. I wasn't where I wanted to be on the swim. I had to do a bit of work on the bike to catch up and we had a good group with Brian, Hunter and Andy," said Reed. "Hunter and Andy were watching each other
during the race. I figured I'd put in an attack and none of them wanted to chase me down. I guess they
figured I wouldn't run quite as well as I did today, but I've done a lot of work on it and it's paid off. I was really happy with my lead off the bike and I held that throughout the race."
The win was especially satisfying for Reed who has been in the process for citizenship since 2004. He
also will now compete against his brother, Shane, who qualified to compete for New Zealand just last
month. "I was thinking Olympics, Olympics," said Reed. "I was thinking about my brother. I thought it
would be an amazing thing for two brothers to be in the Olympics in the same sport. I was thinking of all
the people who didn't pick me for the win today."
Potts was satisfied with his performance despite not securing his Olympic slot. "This was a true test of
triathlons - a tough swim, a tough run and a tough bike. I did my best. I can't take anything away from
Matt. Matt beat me straight up," he said. "I thought I had a good day and it just wasn't good enough to be
on the top of the podium. One of the things that is important to me is to give my best effort so I can sleep
soundly at night. I'm going to put my head on the pillow tonight and get a good night's sleep."
With two out of three slots determined for both the men and the women, all eyes are on Des Moines,
Iowa and the Hy-Vee Triathlon on June 22, where the final team members will be selected based on the
best two finishes in the three-race selection process.
For the women, the scenario is simple: if Sarah Groff is the top American at Hy-Vee, she earns the slot. If she isn't the top American, that final slot goes to Sarah Haskins. With an international field, including
Ertel and Bennett, competing in Des Moines, Groff has her work cut out for her.
On the men's side it gets a bit more complicated, as Potts and Kemper each have second- and third-place results in the first two events. Whoever comes out ahead in Des Moines earns the slot. However, either Fleischmann or Friman could get that spot with a win in Des Moines, provided both Potts and Kemper finish third or lower among the American competitors.
For reuslts listing, go to www.onlineraceresults.com/event/view_event.php