Queens University Triathlon Stripped of Team Title at Collegiate Club National Championships
Queens University of Charlotte threw down a team performance unlike anything ever seen before at the USA Triathlon Collegiate Club National Championships. Racing started on Friday with Milan Tomin finishing 4th in the mens draft legal race scoring 235 points for the Queens University Royals, and Tereza Zimovjanova finishing 3rd and scoring 240 points for the QU women.
On Saturday the QU Men ripped off a 1-3-4-16-17-18 finish in the Olympic distance non-draft race (top 4 score for each team). So they scored 500+498+497+485 in the mens olympic race. Yes that is 3 finishers in the top 5 and 6 in the top 20.
The women suffered some bad luck with Queens top girl flatting out on the bike and another girl crashing out, but the rest of the ladies from Charlotte, North Carolina held it together to give Queens the overall combined Mens+Womens team lead going into the final event of the weekend - the mixed team relay (MTR). This consists of 4 athletes, 2 men and 2 women, each completing a super sprint triathlon and tagging off to their teammate when they finish their leg. If Queens could win the MTR, they would secure the overall win.
Jack Felix, the third leg of the relay for Queens, opened up a large gap on the rest of the field, and handed off to final leg Annabel Knoll with a sizeable lead. Annabel, who flatted out during the Olympic race earlier in the day, got her moment of glory as she widened the gap substantially, and crossed the finish line first by a whopping 1 minute and 44 seconds over the second place finisher and scoring an additional 100 points for the Royals. Queens University was your Overall combined mens+womens team champions at the 2019 USAT Collegiate Club National Championships, with a dominating performance top to bottom.
Queens University was, beyond a shadow of the doubt, the best collegiate team out there this weekend.
But their title was stripped away from them.
As per a USAT Officials report, a protest was filed by an athlete from the University of Colorado - Boulder at 5:25 p.m. local time against the Queens MTR team. In addition to CU Boulder, there were also two other teams who signed the Colorado athletes protest card. The basis for the protest was that Queens third leg, Jack Felix, was wearing a race kit that had sleeves. Apparently the protesting athlete thought this was against the rules. And decided to file a protest after the race.
So while the awards ceremony was going on (started at 8pm) they did not know the official results of the MTR or the overall team competition. The protest and appeal process was still taking place.
The decision was made final while they were announcing the winners of the mens indivdual race at the awards ceremony. Queens would be disqualified from the MTR, meaning The US Naval Academy would be the MTR winners. Queens would thus lose all of the team points that came along with the MTR. At the awards ceremony, the Naval Acaedmy seemed to take a stand for Queens by not taking the top step of the podium when called up for their award, but instead electing to stand on the 4th place step. Here are the implication of the disqualification in the overall team standings:
Queens drops from first place to third place (take a moment…. Queens still got third place even without scoring ANY points in one of the three events of the weekend.)
Colorado Boulder moves up from Third Place to Second Place.
University of California Berkeley moves up from Second Place to First Place. Cal would be your overall combined men+women champions of the weekend.
So here is the official rules from USAT (if official rules actually exist. The USAT rules have been known to be both ambiguous and contradictory): 5.2.5 states: For Draft-Legal individual events, athletes must additionally follow the uniform guidelines of USAT competitive rules for draft-legal events”
Breaking this rule down…. The MTR is not an individual event. So the rules should not apply. Moving on.
Here is another set of rules about uniforms from USAT (you can see how it gets confusing): “An athlete must wear a team uniform that fully covers his/her torso from race start to finish. Matching team uniforms are highly encouraged.”
Breaking this one down…. Well nothing was said about sleeves. And uniforms don’t even need to match. So looks like nothing was broken there either.
Here is another rule: “The intentions to submit a protest or appeal must be made to the lead official within 5 minutes of the athletes finish time at finish line” Judging by the time stamps of the officials report, it seems as though the protest was likely filed within 5 minutes of race finish.
It also says “Generally, protests or appeals must follow the steps listed below.” So it seems as though this is one of those rules where, USAT might not really know the rules. You have to file a protest within 5 minutes. Generally. Maybe not. But sometimes you do. We don’t really know. Anyhow, in this case we will continue to monitor as more information comes in as to exactly how long after the race the protest was filed.
Here is what an ex- Collegiate Triathlon Chair had to say about the ruling: “There is a reason this rule is written the way it is. We have been asked about this specific question by teams before because some teams have entirely different uniforms within their club. Some have old and some new. For that reason it is specifically more lenient for the MTR. We have pointed to this rule and specifically told teams their uniforms do not need to match. Again this is club nationals, not varsity. And we can’t hold some teams to one standard and others to another.”
There were other teams in the MTR that had athletes who wore kits with sleeves on them.
So a question becomes: If it IS against the rules, why were Queens (and the other teams who wore sleeved kits) not penalized/DQ’d DURING the race? Shouldn’t the officials see that a rule was being broken and enforce said rule? Imagine if somebody called the NFL the day after the Super Bowl and said “Hey I was watching a replay of the Super Bowl and I saw the New England Patriots false start in the third quarter that the officials didn’t call. You should disqualify them and let the NY Giants win the game.”
Another concern is consistency. Jack Felix, the Queens athlete who wore the sleeved kit and got DQ’d, also wore the same exact kit in the 2018 Mixed Team Relay, where he crossed the finish line first and won the race for his team. He did not get DQ’d in 2018. But he did in 2019. Hmm...
Anywho - Nobody wants to win because of a disqualification (well maybe some people do). It was obvious that Queens University was the best team out there. And while 99% of people may agree that Queens should have won, it only takes one person to file a protest and a few people to interpret some ambiguous and contradictory rules a certain way to make a decision that strips away two National Championships (the MTR and the overall combined title) from the team that earned it.
And that is all that there is to be said about the situation. So if it was hard to follow, here is a summary:
Collegiate competitive rules state that uniforms do not need to be matching in the MTR. There is no mention of sleeves. A rule purposefully designed for the event to be flexible.
If you misinterpret the rules and go to USAT Rules instead of collegiate competitive rules, it still does not require them to match. Although the USAT Individual draft-legal rules do state that sleeves are not allowed. (Although one place on their website linked to rules where it said sleeves are not allowed, yet another place on the website link to rules that had no mention of sleeves)
There is photo evidence of many teams mismatching and wearing sleeved kits.
Nothing was done on course during the race by the officials.
The USAT ruling on this protest will have a gravitational impact on the future of collegiate competitive rules and set a precedent for the future of collegiate club triathlon.
Thank you for taking the time to read up on the situation. Hopefully you now better understand what happened on April 6th at the Collegiate Club National Championships. My aim in writing this, since there was a lot of confusion and not a lot of information out there at the awards ceremony as to what was going on, was to inform to the best of my ability:
A. The timeline/situation of events that transpired
B. An attempt at showing the USAT collegiate rules
I am not writing this to bash any other team, coach, or athlete. I have the highest respect for everybody who competed this weekend. I also tried to be as honest, fair, open, and objective as I could. Yes, I am Justin Lippert. Yes I race for Queens. I know a little bias shows through because of that. As you might be able to imagine this weekend was an emotional roller coaster for our team. From the high and lows throughout the races, to the highest of highs after winning the MTR and overall team titles, to the lowest of lows after hearing the devastating news that we lost the appeals process while we were at the awards ceremony. Our team raced for each other selflessly and rallied behind one another the entire weekend to throw down a spectacular performance which can not be taken away from us. But it is impossible to leave Tempe without crushed spirits. I am upset by the fact that somebody would like to win this way. Have a read through this website here. Go to the about page. Check it out. I am all for fair, honest, hard competition. I want the best person on the day to win. I want to race people at their best fair and square. Win with honor and lose with honor. Queens won the race by over a minute. Fair and square. Protesting such a trivial rule after you lost is unsportsmanlike at best. But rules are rules. Kind of. Sometimes they can be ambiguous. Anyway, rules were broken(?) and we will be back next year without any sleeves.
I am sure people will be opinionated on this and that is fine. I respect your opinion either way. I just ask that if there is to be any discussion on this article, or the events that transpired this weekend, to please be civil and respectful. The triathlon community is one of the best out there. Every athlete I have ever met is so cool and so nice. So let us keep it that way. Be nice, be respectful, please. Thank you.