Overheard at Nationals

By Cassandra Johnson | Aug. 11, 2017, 6:06 p.m. (ET)

age group nationals

Levi Carter Park in Omaha, Nebraska, has been transformed into a world-class venue and over 4,000 amateur triathletes have spent the day picking up their packets, testing the water, checking out the expo and touring the course in preparation for the 2017 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships. Racing kicks off tomorrow morning with the Olympic-Distance National Championships, and we caught up with several competitors to hear about the atmosphere and what drives them to compete.

Luis Herrera, 27, Olympic-Distance

Ojai, California

“This is my first time at Nationals, and I’m really excited. I didn’t think it was something I could achieve as I started doing triathlons because I was diagnosed with Crohn's. I’m excited to see where I rank on a national level; give it my all and see what happens. [I’m at the NormaTec tent at expo] just getting some recovery in before tomorrow’s race.”

Stephanie Hicks, 40, Olympic-Distance

Wauwatosa, Wisconsin

“[The best part of the event is] the people — the camaraderie, seeing people from all different states. It’s a fabulous event. I’m looking forward to being on the finish line and giving my family hugs. We were here yesterday walking around the venue — it’s awesome and perfect weather.”

Jodi Bailey, 36, Olympic-Distance

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

“[The atmosphere] is amazing. It’s definitely the biggest race I’ve ever been to so it’s a little bit overwhelming. I’m in awe of this whole event. It’s an honor to be a part of this. [I’m looking forward to] finishing and having this cap off the season.”

Michael Sikorski, 37, Olympic-Distance and Sprint

New York, New York

“Favorite part? The competition — you get a lot of people in your age group and really see where you stack up year after year. It’s probably the most competitive Olympic-distance race there is, which is pretty cool. And then you can qualify for Worlds. I’ve competed [at Worlds] three times and Rotterdam this fall will be my fourth time. It’s all about the trip and the experience. Getting to wear USA is pretty cool.”

Paula Larsen, 72, Sprint

Delafield, Wisconsin

“I’ve raced at Nationals many times. It’s always a good experience and fun. Looking forward to just finishing, being here, the camaraderie and seeing friends — that’s all part of it.”

Drew Blake, 28, Olympic-Distance

Hattiesburg, Mississippi

“I’ve been looking forward to this since I qualified last year. I think everyone wants to come to Age Group Nationals at least once, so this is awesome. … My parents and wife have been taking on all the hard stuff and telling me to focus, and I’ll be doing everything I can do pay it forward.”

Race coverage, including a live video stream, will be available both days at usatriathlon.org/agnc17coverage. Live coverage is also available on Twitter at @USATLive.