BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
UNITED States-based Zimbabwe athlete Andy Kuipers made history after helping Lenoir-Rhyne University women triathlon team to a third place in their first ever NCAA Championship appearance Tempe Town Lake, Arizona last week.
Kuipers, who is targeting qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics, left the country on a scholarship to join the first triathlon team at Lenoir-Rhyne University in South Carolina in the US.
The Bears, as the Lenoir-Rhyne women team is popularly known, qualified for nationals by winning the Central Regional Qualifier at Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin earlier in the year.
Now a sophomore at the university, Kuipers finished 19th in her race, romping home in 1 hour 10 minutes and 59 seconds to record the third fastest time in the team.
South African Kayla Ribbink was the highest ranked member of the Lenoir-Rhyne team finishing 10th overall about two minutes ahead of Kuipers while Chloe Telian was 15th in the race recording a time of 1 hour 10 minutes and 12 seconds.
The top eight ranked teams in DII qualified for the Championship along with the top individuals from non-qualified teams.
In a battle of regional rivals Wingate and Queens, claimed third place, putting them on the podium in their first ever National Championship.
The team race came down to a tie breaker against Colorado Mesa University (CMU) for the final podium position. By rule, a tie is broken by the highest placing #4 scoring athlete.
Teresa Vesely outsprinted CMU’s number 4 in the finishing metres to secure The Bears’ most significant team result in the short history of the program.
The Bears were led out of the water by Ribbink, with a swim time of 10:58, putting her top 10 onto the bike.
Teammates Telian and Kuipers were able to claw into the first chase pack with her, working strong together throughout the 20km bike portion. The trio of Bears led the charge of the pack, putting them in strong positions going on to the 5km run.
The second pack was led by Teresa Vesely, following close behind the front chase, while Sayti Plank and Nanette Nikolajsen were consolidated in the third chase pack.
“Today was a huge step for the programme,” remarked The Bears Coach Bryant Howard.
“We knew it was going to be a battle and everyone contributed to this podium.”
Next semester the Bears first race will be in Clermont, Florida for NCAA and Elite Development Races.