KELOWNA, B.C.—A new crop of Canucks introduced themselves to the country in the qualification round of the two-day CAMTRI Sprint Triathlon American Cup, which is also serving as the National Triathlon Championships, in Kelowna, B.C. on Saturday.
Two Quebecers, Emy Legault of L’Île Perrot, and Jeremy Briand of Sainte-Julie, posted the fastest times for the Canadians on the day, while 16-year-old Isla Britton (Montreal) and Calgary’s Russell Pennock captured the nation’s attention in the rare Super Sprint format that had many of Canada’s best in the sport completing a 300-metre swim, eight-kilometre bike and a lightening-quick 1.5 kilometre run course alongside Kelowna’s waterfront.
The top-14 athletes in each of the two women’s heats, along with the next two fastest times overall in the field of 55, will toe the line for Sunday’s National Triathlon Championship final. The top-nine men, along with the three next three quickest times overall in the field of 73, secured a spot in the men’s final.
The 23-year-old Legualt posted the fastest Canadian time in women’s action at 25:50, despite crossing the line in fourth place in the opening heat of the day that was contested under glorious race conditions in the Okanagan Valley.
Legault was first off the highly-technical bike course that was loaded with hairpin turns through Kelowna’s downtown core, but could not hold onto the lead in a rapid pace on the short run course.
Marissa Ferrante, of the United States, posted the top women’s time of the day en route to winning the first heat where she stopped the clock at 25:19.
A pint-sized Canadian teenager stole the show in the final women’s heat. Montreal’s Isla Britton ripped through the 300-metre swim in Lake Okanagan, and never looked back. The 16-year-old dropped the field on the run course, winning the heat by four seconds with a time of 26:00.
“It is hard to know where you are in the swim, but I stood up out of the water and I was surprised that I was at the front,” said Britton, who now lives in Scotland. “I got onto the bike and worked with some of the bigger girls in the pack, and took the lead on the corners. When I got onto the run, I was going fast, but I didn’t feel like I was working too hard so it was surprisingly a really good result for me.”
Many of the top Canadian names also rose to the top of the leaderboard in each of the three men’s CAMTRI heats.
Jeremy Briand, 24, posted the fastest men’s time of the day at 23:00 to win the second heat. Briand topped Victoria’s Aiden Longcroft-Harris by four seconds in a strong international affair that saw seven Canadians advance into Sunday’s final including two of the three next fastest times overall.
Martin Sobey, of Charlottetown, P.E.I., and Hamilton’s John Rasmussen set the tone for the Canucks after finishing deadlocked at 23:12 in the first men’s heat.
“I just wanted to get through today with no issues. I got myself in good position on the swim, and was first out on the bike. I ended up riding with another guy, keeping it smooth and out of trouble. The run was all about conserving energy for tomorrow,” said Sobey, who was competing in his first two-day race format. “I was able to keep all the little things in check and didn’t go over the top with the effort. Tomorrow is about racing at the front, staying up there, and we will see what we can do.”
Calgary’s Russell Pennock capped off a stellar opening day at the famed Kelowna Apple Triathlon by winning the final men’s heat. Competing in his first triathlon since 2016, the former National Development Team athlete rocked the Super Sprint format, taking the final heat with a time of 23:10.
Pennock, who has been training at Triathlon Canada’s National Performance Centre with his sister Ellen who also earned a spot in Sunday’s final, has been focused on cross-country running for the University of Calgary over the last three years while completing his biomechanics degree.
“I didn’t know what to expect but that was the best you could hope for,” said Pennock, who was sporting an ear-to-ear grin down the finishing stretch. “Really I just wanted to get back into it, and literally get my feet wet. It was fun to be back.”
The 23 year old surprised himself in the water, and tagged onto the back-end of the lead group on the bike before taking control of the run course.
“I didn’t know where my swimming was going to be, and I came out near the front – not too far behind the leaders – so I was really happy,” said Pennock. “This was huge. It definitely gives me a lot of confidence for tomorrow.”
Modeled after the highly successful race format used at the world-renowned Tiszaujvaros World Cup in Hungary, this is the second time Triathlon Canada has adopted the unique two-day format for its National Triathlon Championships.
The top-30 women and top-30 men and will each hit the start line once again on Sunday for the sprint distance finals that will feature a 750-metre swim, 20-kilometre bike, and 5-kilometre run to determine the King and Queen of Canadian Triathlon in 2019. Canada will have 20 women and 19 men on the start line.
Nearly all of Canada’s top-ranked athletes are competing at the National Championships with the exception of Joanna Brown, Amelie Kretz, Tyler Mislawchuk, Alexis Lepage, and Matt Sharpe who have the maple leaf on their backs at the prestigious Triathlon Mixed Relay World Championships in Hamburg, Germany.
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