Lexington, Ky. – As the second season of Transylvania triathlon opens up this week, the program sports a brand-new look.
Following a successful inaugural 2018 season that resulted in two Pioneers advancing to the triathlon national championships in Tempe, Arizona, the Pioneers begin the roster with no student-athletes from the year before, but instead a fresh group of first-year student-athletes, ready to pick up from where the foundational team left off.
Along with the new group of competitors arrives a new coach: Sean McNulty, who recently was appointed the head coach of the Transylvania triathlon program. The University of Kentucky alum has made his homecoming to Lexington after spending the past four years at Duke University in North Carolina, where he continued to build a coaching career laced with successes coaching a myriad of track and field athletes. McNulty last coached a group of successful steeplechasers prior to turning his career in a new direction with his appointment as the head coach for Transylvania triathlon.
As a new squad takes shape across both coaching staff and roster, the team enters the month of September ready to head into immediate action as the Pioneers compete at the Central Regional Qualifier at Pleasant Prarie, Wisconsin on September 1.
With a relatively new program still taking shape, McNulty enters the season with a wealth of perspective from an assortment of past sports he has coached as the Pioneers continue their construction process. "From the moment I stepped foot on campus, all the way through to the local Lexington community reaching out to me to let me know their excitement about how the program is growing, the excitement around this team has been palpable," says McNulty. "I have always had a passion for both the sport of triathlon and coaching and this opportunity has allowed me to combine the two. Triathlon is a growing NCAA sport and I look forward to being a part of that growth, both at the national level as well as here in Lexington at Transy."
The Pioneers enter the season with three fresh faces on their roster, all freshmen, as Grayson Bray (Alpharetta, Georgia / Northview HS), Malauri Edwards (Bremen, Ohio / Lancaster HS), and Kiarah Higgins (Lexington, Ky. / Lexington Christian Academy) form the present and future foundation of this program.
"We are young, but two out of our three student-athletes possess triathlon backgrounds and have raced at the highest of levels," comments McNulty. "Grayson and Malauri will be passing on their experience to Kiarah as she competes in her first triathlon. The best part of having a young team is that it allows each individual to build and grow as leaders. They will be the backbone of this team as it blossoms into a larger program."
Drawing from three unique components, the triathlon program at Transylvania has naturally attracted three athletes with three different skill sets and athletic backgrounds. McNulty relishes the chance to harness each of his newcomers' skills while committing to their development over the next four years. "I would like to see Kiarah enjoy her first season of triathlon and continue to set many 'firsts' throughout the season," forecasts McNulty. "Malauri is experienced in triathlon and will use her running background to be successful. Grayson comes in with the most experience in the draft legal triathlon world, so she will be looking to add that in the collegiate triathlon scene. I believe that both Malauri and Grayson can be competing for a top-10 spot at nationals and I am excited to score a full team."
As the trio approaches their first triathlon season, the team has been getting to know one another, acclimating to their new college atmosphere at Transy, and working on their race preparation as they head north to Wisconsin for their opening event. The Central Regional will kick off a four-race schedule with potentially more to be added as McNulty puts the finishing touches on a blueprint for 2019.
"The regular season will allow us to learn about each other as well as adjust our training to fit each individual in all three sports," McNulty adds. "The meet that will be the most important will be the East Regional on October 19; this will be the final regular-season event, so we will be training hard leading into this race as we hope to build momentum and success as we head towards nationals."
McNulty and his three athletes have come together at Transylvania at a seminal moment as the triathlon program continues to build, mirroring a campus which is undergoing a physical transformation of its own. In the early stages of Transy Triathlon, the Pioneers embrace the 2019 season as one of potential as well as a launch point for a future that belongs to them.
"We have a young team which allows me to implement my own coaching philosophy as well as a family culture," says McNulty. "Our team goal for the season is to lay the foundation of family culture, trust, and loyalty. Results will stem from these three things. Our mindset is that we are embarking on a journey into uncharted territory, but if we do it together as a family, then we will all come out successfully."
While the Transylvania triathlon team remains in a stage of relative infancy, the program's impact upon the Transylvania Athletics Department as well as collegiate triathlon in the state of Kentucky has been noticeable and continual.
The new class of Transy Triathlon is focused on continuing that momentum as they lock in on the start of the 2019 season: "There have been some great triathletes who have come out of the Lexington area and I look forward to introducing and getting them to share their stories to our team," McNulty adds. "The wonderful training sites that we can access from campus allows for our athletes to never get bored with the same run or ride every day. When you are cruising around on low traffic roads next to miles and miles of horse farms, life is pretty awesome."