ASU triathlon has strong showing at the Dual in the Desert NCAA Challenge

ASU defeated the University of San Francisco and the University of South Dakota in the team's first home competition of the season

ASU triathlon defeated the University of San Francisco and University of South Dakota at the Dual in the Desert NCAA Challenge on Saturday. San Francisco and South Dakota placed second and third in the team time results, respectively. 

The competition had a different setup than most triathlon meets. Instead of going straight into each event with no breaks, the three events — running, cycling and swimming — were held separately with breaks between each one. 

The meet was also untraditional, as the day started off with a 3K run, instead of swimming, which is usually the first event. Besides the 3K run, the athletes also participated in a bike skills obstacle course, a 4-mile bike team trial, a 100-meter swim and a 400-meter open water course in the pool. 

Head coach Cliff English said ASU's matchup against the two Division I programs was a good way for the coaches to measure their athletes at each individual event.

"When (the events) are not pushed together different things shine," English said. "You might see that someone overall can win a triathlon, but it might be a different athlete that is very good at hitting one event."

The day began bright and early at 7 a.m. with the 3K run. San Francisco freshman Kira Gupta Baltazar finished first with a time of 9:58 and ASU sophomore Amber Schlebusch followed with a time of 10:08. 

The Sun Devils dominated the bike skills obstacle course, with freshman MJ Lopez Aguirre finishing first with a time of 1:06. Seniors Audrey Ernst and Kira Stanley came in second and third with times of 1:08 and 1:10, respectively. 

The biking domination continued with the four-mile bike team trial. ASU's B team consisting of Ernst, Lopez, Stanley and graduate student Hannah Henry beat out the A team of graduate student Kyla Roy, junior Liberty Ricca, freshman Alexe Coursol and Schlebusch for the top spot with a time of 9:23. 

This was the first time Coursol had suited up in a Sun Devil uniform, as she did not compete at thePleasant Prairie National Qualifier on Sept. 4. However, she was happy to help contribute to her team's dominance on Saturday.

"The team's performance was the best we could've ever hoped for," Coursol said. 

In the last events of the day, the teams took to the water, competing in the 100-meter freestyle and the 400-meter open water simulation. Gupta Baltazar (1:01:21) secured first place, but ASU still managed to place second, third, and fourth with Stanley (1:02:58), Roy (1:02:75 ), and Ricca (1:02:87) finishing in that order.

Gupta Baltazar earned first place overall individually, with a total time of 26:45, with Ricca and Roy rounding out the podium with times of 27:01 and 27:04, respectively.

In terms of the team results, ASU finished first with a time of 1:49:01, followed by San Francisco (1:50:43) and South Dakota (1:53:08).

Despite not sweeping the podium at the meet, the Sun Devils still held a strong showing against two of their rivals. They also competed against these two schools in the team's last meet in Wisconsin.

"These two teams are our biggest competitors. They're both equally strong," sophomore Katy Clausen said.

According to English, only seven triathletes out of the 14 on the roster will be selected to compete in the Women's Collegiate Triathlon National Championships on Nov. 13.  

English said those roster spots will go toward the team's top finishers in each meet leading up to the event. He also noted that attitude is a factor in who gets the other spots.

ASU will compete next at the St. George National Qualifier in St. George, Utah, on Oct. 30. 

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