Two Z3 athletes will be competing in the ITU Duathlon World Championships in Pontevedra, Spain on June 1. Caroline Killeen and Rebecca Naughton will represent Team USA in the 16-19 Age Group Sprint race, which will begin with a 5-kilometer run, followed by a 20-kilometer bike ride and 2.5-kilometer sprint to the finish.
Naughton and Killeen qualified for the World Championships at the Duathlon National Championships in Tucson, Arizona last October, where they finished in third and fourth place, respectively. “My parents and I didn’t make the decision to race at Worlds until December after we had several conversations with Coach Jenny,” Killeen said. “We wanted to make sure this was going to be a good fit for me and support my goal of racing as an elite triathlete. Once the decision was made for me to race in Spain, I cried.”
Killeen arrived in Barcelona May 25, and Naughton made the 11-hour flight on Tuesday. Their early arrival dates allow the athletes the opportunity to tour Spain and take in the local culture before their races. Naughton hopes to get in a little time on the beaches of Pontevedra, while Killeen is most excited to try her hand at Flamenco dancing. “I am really, really excited to get to experience the culture that I have spent so much time learning about in Spanish class,” Naughton said.
But it won’t be all play and no work. The athletes will have less than a week to shake their jet lag and become accustomed to the 7-hour time difference. On June 1, Naughton and Killeen will join fellow Americans Jennifer Rattray, of Connecticut, and Alexandra Schwein, of Michigan, in a race to be named the world’s top duathlete. Spain, Great Britain, Mexico, Portugal, Russia and Australia will also be represented in the 16-19 Age Group race.
“I have never really traveled internationally, and I haven’t competed internationally either,” Naughton said. “I’m really excited to be able to travel and compete abroad because I think it will be very exciting, while also presenting some challenges at the same time. But no matter what, I couldn’t be more excited for this opportunity.”
Both athletes have made adjustments in their racing strategies in the shift from triathlon to duathlon. Naughton, who excels in the swimming portion of triathlons, has focused her training efforts on running and biking in order to be more competitive. “I am excited for the bike because I got a team bike this year, and I feel like I have grown a lot stronger on the bike,” Naughton said. “I am really focusing on my run right now to improve it. I have spent a lot of time on it during the track season so it has had a chance to improve.”
Killeen realizes that her biggest obstacle may be in her own mind. “I have to mentally prepare differently for the beginning of a duathlon,” Killeen said. “My triathlon coaches with Z3 and my high school track coach have changed my training to help me grow and become stronger with the first run.”
Both athletes hope to see their hard work pay off in Pontevedra. “The competition at Worlds will be hard, so I have a goal of setting a personal best and leaving nothing on the course,” Killeen said. “Racing internationally will be a new challenge for me both mentally and physically. I want to be happy with my race results and proud of my accomplishments.”
Naughton hopes the race will provide an opportunity to be recognized in an international setting. “I just want to go and show everyone how hard I have been training,” Naughton said. “My biggest goal is to get on the podium. There are 14 girls racing all together, and even though I’m the youngest, I have a good shot at making my goal and getting on the podium.”