Despite wind that made the usually smooth Lake San Antonio seem like a choppy ocean and the bike race feel like a stationary bike at the gym, Cal Poly’s triathlon team took second place at the 31st Annual Wildflower Triathlon on Sunday.
Two seniors, Scott Kolofer and Kaori Funahashi, placed third in the collegiate male and female classes, respectively.
After struggling through the waves during the swim, Kolofer said he was able to work his way up from 10th place to lead most of the bike and run portions with the first and second place finishers.
“I managed to hold on to third place overall and make a podium spot, which I was really happy with,” Kolofer said.
Kolofer finished the Olympic distance course, which consists of a 0.9-mile swim, 24.9-mile bike and 6.2-mile run, in 2 hours, 8 minutes.
Two other Cal Poly men finished in the top 20: Connor Sousa placed sixth and Ben Burford came in 15th.
There were four top 20 finishers on the women’s side, including Funahashi, who finished the race in 2 hours, 30 minutes.
“I was pretty happy with (coming) in third,” Funahashi said. “It was the best race I’ve ever done in my collegiate racing career.”
Despite temperatures that reached the mid-90s on Friday and Saturday for the long course and sprint races, Sunday saw cool, windy weather for the Olympic distance triathlon.
“The swim was really choppy (and) I didn’t expect it to be,” Funahashi said. “But I’m more of a swimmer, so that’s good for me.”
Funahashi finished the swim portion of the race in 22 minutes, 52 seconds — faster than the top two finishers in the collegiate female class.
Funahashi and Kolofer agreed that the Cal Poly volunteers at Wildflower make the triathlon a special race for the Cal Poly team.
“It’s fun having all the Cal Poly volunteers,” Kolofer said. “The excitement is a good thing. (At) every single aid station, you get priority over the other racers because you’re wearing a Cal Poly jersey.”
Nutrition senior Giorgia Guidicelli joined the triathlon team this fall and competed in the Wildflower triathlon for the first time this weekend.
She stopped to give herself a mental pep talk during the swim portion because she was getting kicked in the face and jostled by the waves, she said.
She persevered through the swim, but biking turned out to be just as hard.
“I felt like I was on a stationary bike because the winds were super strong,” Guidicelli said. “But it was better than it being super hot.”
Guidicelli said seeing all the Cal Poly volunteers cheering the Mustangs on after the swim portion was encouraging.
“It helped me through the race a lot,” she said. “Especially through the run at the end.”
Wildflower marked the culmination of a successful season for the Cal Poly team. The Mustangs finished second in the West Coast Collegiate Triathlon Conference championship in March, falling only to California, which went on to finish second in the USA Triathlon nationals.
“The team performed phenomenally there as well,” Kolofer said.
Cal Poly came in seventh at nationals on April 13 in Tempe, Ariz., but Kolofer was sick during the triathlon and didn’t race well, he said, “but the rest of the team picked up the slack.”
Funahashi took 49th overall at nationals, a place she was pretty happy with in a pool of more than 400 other triathletes, she said.
Although her college triathlon career culminated at Wildflower, Funahashi doesn’t see an end in sight.
“It’s so inspiring to see these 80-year-old grandmas racing at Wildflower,” she said. “I don’t think I could ever stop racing.”