For Tyler Smith and Erica Hawley this weekend’s Junior Elite World Championships for 16-19 year olds will have special meaning as it will be the last time they will race at the junior level in these world championships.
Tyler and Erica have been outstanding ambassadors for Bermuda in triathlon on a world level. They have managed to combine a busy school and more recently college workload ( Erica attends the University of Colorado in Boulder and Tyler attends Leeds University) with a grueling training schedule that leaves them with little time to socialize.
If Erica races to her potential then she has a chance of a top ten finish this weekend although if in contention going into the 5km run she will likely need to run a personal best. Erica, despite injury and the emotional stress of losing a close friend and training partner who died in a bike accident, has had an outstanding season with a 4th place finish on the North American Junior Elite Championships, a silver medal in the Central American and Caribbean Junior Elite Championships and the gold medal as a freshman at the US Collegiate Championships. After having to withdraw from a Junior European Series race in Austria due to a crash the day before, Erica carried a shoulder injury into the next race in Holten, Netherlands and finished 27th. She then had to withdraw from the regional world championships qualifying race in Magog, Canada but was lucky enough to get a wildcard entry to the championships. Her last race since then was in Malmo, Sweden in an elite sprint race that included senior professional women. Erica finished a confidence boosting 16th in a good time of just over 1 hour 3 mins, an encouraging performance considering her interrupted training schedule. Since then she has been largely in Boulder training with her team and she will be well prepared going into these championships.
Tyler’s season was a reverse of Erica’s as he started the season with mediocre results by his standards but has found his form as the season has progressed, maybe as the sun has come out. Like Erica he has had to deal with adversity as early in the year he was hit by a truck and although he escaped serious injury it put back his training.
Like Erica, Tyler will be depending on his ability to come out with the lead group on the 750m swim, have a good transition and stay with the pace with the lead group of triathletes on the 20km bike. Unless he is part of a small breakaway group on the bike, which is quite possible, Tyler will have to produce a very exceptional run for the 5km to have any chance of a top ten or even top 20 finish. A sub 15 min 40 run would be exceptional for Tyler but I expect as many as 10 juniors to go under 15 mins on Saturday so alot will depend on how many juniors get off the bike together.
Tyler’s recent form has however been encouraging, in particular in his last race in Mallory Park in the UK on 27th August in an U20 Elite race that included the British elite juniors vying for a place in the GB team for these world championships. Tyler finished 5th out of 55 starters and most importantly exited the water first and held his own with the lead group of 8 riders on the bike. The race was won by Ben Dijkstra one of the favorites for Rotterdam. Dijkstra ran 14 min 43 secs for the 5km to Tyler’s 16 min 09 secs and therein lies Tyler’s challenge. However, Tyler’s most impressive result this year was his 3rd place in the UK’s Junior Elite Championships in June and he will go into this race knowing that if he can be there off the bike he has a realistic chance of a top 20 finish or better depending on the size of the lead group (if he makes the group) and the lead they have over the chasers. He qualified for these championships with a 15th place finish in Magog in the South, North and Central American Junior ELite Championships/
Erica’s race gets underway on Friday 15th September at 3PM Rotterdam time and Tyler will start on Saturday 16th September at 8AM Rotterdam time.
Results and race coverage can be found at http://www.triathlon.org