Tuscaloosa to host fourth annual triathlon

Jennie Kushner

Despite the away game weekend, Tuscaloosa will be the center of a major sporting event, as more than 1,800 athletes compete in the fourth annual triathlon this Saturday.

John Martin, communications manager for the USA Triathlon, said the hospitability of Tuscaloosa and the University allow for the reoccurring races.

“We’ve enjoyed great support from Mayor Maddox, the city of Tuscaloosa and the University of Alabama over the past three years,” Martin said. “Tuscaloosa has become sort of a home away from home for USA Triathlon, and we’re looking forward to another great event this weekend.”

Events kick off Saturday at 7 a.m. More than 13,000 of the U.S.’s top amateur triathletes will compete for the National Championship. This Olympic-distance event includes a 1.5 km swim, a 40 km bike ride and a 10 km run course.

The elite race will also be on Saturday.

“The elite racers are more or less like professional athletes,” Martin said. “Mainly these athletes are from the U.S. but there will be about 20 international athletes competing as well.”

All age-group athletes met qualification standards at USAT-sanctioned qualifying events through the 2010 season.

The top 18 finishers will compete for coveted spots to represent the U.S. at the 2011 ITU World Championships in Beijing, China, on Sept. 10.

The Sprint National Championship will be Sunday, with about 100 athletes competing. This race consists of a 750 m swim, a 20 km bike and a 5 km run that starts at 8 a.m.

Stephanie Maddox, sports marketing director for the Tuscaloosa Convention and Visitors Bureau, said all events begin and end at the Park at Manderson Landing. The athletes will enter the Black Warrior River there, transition onto their bikes and then onto the running course.

Maddox said the athletes will bike and run along Jack Warner Parkway and other streets.

“Residents should be aware that Jack Warner Parkway will be closed from 6:45 a.m. until around 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and around 7:45 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Sunday,” Maddox said.

Maddox said the race was specially planned on an away game weekend.

“The city and USAT worked around UA’s football schedule,” she said. “It’s not logistically possible to host the event the same weekend as a home game.”

Bama Dining will be catering the event.

Kelsey Faust, marketing coordinator for Bama Dining, said that they were suggested about a year ago through word of mouth to the USAT committees as a possible food provider for the athletes.

“Bama Dining will be catering a buffet dinner on Friday for 225 athletes at the Fresh Food Company, where multiple stations will be set up offering a variety of items,” she said. “Saturday, Bama Dining will cater the Triathlon VIP tent at Manderson Landing for 75 people.

“We are also providing meals for the triathlon volunteers. Sunday we are catering the Athlete Post Meal for about 350 people.”

Student athlete Jay Bruhn, a senior majoring in engineering, will compete in the triathlon for the second time.

“Since this is a national championship event, it is a good measuring stick to see how I compare with the nation’s top athletes,” Bruhn said.

Bruhn has been training for this event all year. He said he has taken advantage of having the home course, but since the majority of the bike segment is on Jack Warner, he is forced to train early mornings to avoid traffic.

Bruhn said this event is also beneficial to the city.

“It has a huge economic impact for the city,” he said. “Athletes will be bringing their families, and they will go out to eat and spend money on hotels.”

Bruhn is ready for the challenge.

“I’m excited,” he said. “People don’t usually travel across the nation unless they think they have a shot of winning; I know I’ll be racing against some high quality athletes.”

Maddox said the TCVB is honored to help host this event for the fourth consecutive year and to have a good relationship with the USAT.

“It’s a great opportunity to host such a diverse group of sporting events here and showcase our city to a national audience,” Maddox said.