Surprise Win for Bajan Triathlete at Elite US Meet
Barbadian Triathlete Luke McIntyre took gold at the recent Clermont Draft Legal Challenge, in Florida, fighting off challenges from other top youth triathletes from around the US and further afield.
The two-day event featured several races including the Under 25 National Development Race, Youth Development Race, Age Group Draft Legal Race and the NCAA Collegiate Female Race. Located inside of the Lake Louisa State Park in Florida, the race started with a 375-meter swim course in Lake Louisa which averages temperatures ranging around 21 degrees Celsius.
Luke had himself quite the event, having placed 2nd in the warmup Mixed Youth race on Saturday March 4th, he emerged victorious amongst 52 athletes to top the podium in the Youth Boys race the next day in an overall time of 30:16 minutes. After finishing the swim lap in fourth place, Luke came out of transition in the leading bike pack, which comprised of several race favourites – elite 15-year-old triathletes from the US, Mexico and Bermuda. Moving at a significantly faster average speed than the 2022 race, at just about 40km/hr, the lead pack completed the 10km ride and headed into transition with Luke in 5th place.
In the same race, Cain Banfield repeated his dominant first day swim performance to exit the water in first place. As part of the lead bike-pack with teammate Luke, he maintained his position in the group with an excellent ride which brought him back into transition, seventh in a tight pack of approximately 12 lead riders. Despite still nursing a back injury, Cain exhibited a supreme effort in the run lap where he maintained his place with a 10:07-minute run to take 8th place overall in a time of 32:12 minutes. Zindzele Renwick-Williams held his own with a technically sound race and an 18th place finish on the first day. With more of a challenge on the second day of competition, Zindzele emerged out of the water in 29th place with one of the faster times among the small group of 12/13 year olds in the race. However, this was not enough to get him into a bike pack where he could have taken advantage of a draft; although he went into transition in 32nd place to begin his run, Zindzele fought to get back into contention, and by the 2.5km run mid-point had advanced 10 places to 22nd. Unfortunately, an error in his turnaround point cost him a few places and despite a valiant effort, saw him end in 24th place with a run time of 9:20 minutes, a significant improvement from his performance in 2022 and the 7th fastest run of the race.
In the Age Group Draft Legal Super Sprint, Fynn Armstrong was fourth out of the water in a field of 55 men and with a super quick transition was second out on his bike, forming an unbeatable lead pack of two that carried the race throughout the 10km ride. In the 2.5km run, Fynn maintained his top 2 position throughout the half-way point, only to relinquish his position to an older age group competitor towards the end to take an overall third place finish and second place in his 15-19 age group in 31:31 minutes. In the highly competitive U25 Elite Development Race the subsequent day, Fynn was aiming to better his 27th place debut performance last year. In the swim lap, Fynn emerged in 44th out of the 70-strong pack, but with a great transition and ride, he managed to claw his way back with the 20th fastest ride putting him up into 27th place. With a predicted 5km run time of circa 17 minutes, Fynn then had a shot at a sub 20th place, which would have been a significant achievement for one of the youngest competitors in this elite division. Unfortunately, nature stepped in and with severe discomfort from heel blisters he obtained the previous day, Fynn decided to retire early, saving his legs for his upcoming CARIFTA 5000 meters.
The four lads weren’t the only Barbadians to compete at the event; scholarship awardees – Niel Skinner, Zahra Gaskin, Chara Hinds and Kayla Renwick – all competed for their respective collegiate teams. Neil Skinner, a student-athlete at Queens University of Charlotte, competed in the U25 Elite Development Race. He finished 38th among 89 athletes in an overall time of 01:02:07 (hr:mm:ss) in his first day of competition but unfortunately was unable to finish on the second day of the Challenge due to a bike crash. In the women’s NCAA race which comprised of 44 athletes, Chara Hinds who competed for Delaware State, finished in 27th position in an overall time of 37:29 minutes and returned to improved her time with 36:15 minutes (35th). Zahra Gaskin finished in 29th position (first day) for Wingate College in 38:04 minutes and dropped approximately 3 minutes to finish in 35:45 minutes (31st) on the following day. Kayla who competed for Wagner College also saw an improved time from a 41:27 minute-finish (31st) to a 40:13 minute-finish (42nd).