Brishke and Ruotolo Race Towards Nationals

Daniel Brishke and Sarah Ruotolo Race at East Coast Triathlon Festival

Photo by: Marisa Ruotolo
The Junior Elite Females line up at the swim start at the East Coast Triathlon Festival.

Every year at the Innsbrook Pavilion, Endorphin Fitness Triathlon Team hosts the East Coast Triathlon Festival (ECTF). This race holds triathlon races for the 11-19 year old age group and the junior elite circuit. Elite races are for youth ages (12-14) and junior ages (15-19) and for the top youth triathletes in the country. The elite circuit includes four qualifying races for the coveted Junior Elite Nationals in West Chester, Ohio. The first race of the season was held in Richmond. On May 5, 2019, Midlo sophomores Sarah Ruotolo and Daniel Brishke participated in the  junior elite and age group races respectively.

At 5 o’clock in the morning, Ruotolo, the junior elite female, arrived at the race site. “You need to get there a least an hour and a half before the race starts [to warm up],” Ruotolo explained.  She prepared for the bike, the run, and the swim warm up carefully, as her foot was injured. “I wasn’t expecting much for my run because of my foot,” she added.  Until the race began, she continued to prep tirelessly.  At the lake, the racers lined up, ready for the swimming portion, while the race officials played heartbeat music, encouraging the athletes to hop in the water before they sounded the horn for a 750 meter swim in open water. This was a high stakes race; each athlete there hoped to place in the top 20 to qualify for Nationals. “The swim is where races are won,” Race Director and Coach Michael Harlow said, “You want to be in the top half out of the swim. It’s vital to good positioning on the bike because that’s when draft packs are formed.” Draft packs make the ride easier, switching off between the leaders of the pack to preserve energy. ECTF is a draft legal race, like the cyclists of the Tour de France in the peloton. Ruotolo raced smart and grabbed a bike pack for the 12 mile ride quickly after the swim. Finally, she headed off to a three mile run. “I did pretty well considering my foot injury,” she recalled Ruotolo, who will continue her quest to conquer Nationals in Des Moines, Iowa.

A few hours later, Brishke prepared for his race. “I haven’t raced since I was 10 years old, so I didn’t want to push myself too hard,” Brishke explained. Once the horn sounded at 12, Brishke jumped into the lake for a 200 meter swim. He started out strong as the fifth person out of the lake for the swim leg. He raced through the transition to the cycling portion of the race. Brishke biked all the way to first place by the end of the ride, but the race wasn’t over yet. He flew off his bike to the final transition to the run leg, and ran with all the energy he had left. By this point, Brishke only had one other person behind him. “I didn’t even notice anyone around me; I was so focused on my own race,” he recalled. Finally, he saw the finish and took first place overall. “I’m proud of him. He got first place, and he’s only just getting started,” Coach Michael Harlow said. Brishke will join Ruotolo in the qualifying race for Nationals in Des Moines in July.