Joe Maloy of Wildwood Crest won the USA Triathlon Elite National Championships title June 29 in Chicago.
Maloy's victory may not have been obvious to everyone there, because it was a big win in the midst of an even bigger race.
The 28-year-old Wildwood Catholic High School graduate placed 17th overall in the Elite Men's Division against the best in the world at the International Triathlon Union World Triathlon Chicago. There were 10 Americans in the division also going for the national title, and Maloy was the winner in 1 hour, 49 minutes, 24 seconds.
His 1,500-meter swim leg was done in 19 minutes, 17 seconds. Maloy's 40K bike leg took 55:20, and his 10K run was in 33:21. His total transition time was 1:28.
"It (the USA Championship) was kind of a race within a race," Maloy said. "It feels pretty good to win, and it kind of still hasn't hit me yet. It's surreal, I guess. Now it's accomplished, and I'm thinking about what's next. I was still 17th in the race, so there's room for improvement."
The overall winner was Javier Gomez of Spain in 1:47:21. The second American finisher was Hunter Kemper of Colorado Springs, Colo., in 1:49.52.
Maloy, who does 10 to 15 triathlons a year, has set a goal to make the U.S. team for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He said that two or three men will be selected for the U.S. team. The Olympic Trials will be a series of races beginning in 2015.
Maloy is a member of The Triathlon Squad in San Diego, a 10-member team. His coach, Paulo Sousa, has helped him to steadily improve.
"Joe is a hard worker and very determined," Sousa said. "He has shown in the last couple years that he has a lot of drive and talent, and we're pretty happy with the results. He has really improved his bike skills and fitness."
Sousa says that Maloy prepares well in other ways.
"He targeted the race in Chicago and really knew the bike course," Sousa said. "He prepared for, and executed the whole race very well. There are a lot of things to get right. You're going against the best in the world, so there's not a lot of room for mistakes. He executed everything very well to win the American championship."
Maloy, now 5-foot-9, 143 pounds, was a cross country, swimming and track and field standout at Wildwood Catholic, graduating in 2004. He swam distance freestyle and butterfly for Boston College, and was team captain in his final year of 2008. He was also a member of the Wildwood Crest Beach Patrol from 2003-08, and won the Cape May Beach Patrol Superathlon in 2007.
But his first triathlon as a pre-teen didn't turn out so well.
"I did one as a kid about 11 or 12, and crashed my bike," Maloy said. "I decided that I was sticking to the pool. But competing in the Superathlon (as a lifeguard) kind of got me back into them. I thought about how I liked the Superathlon (a run-row-swim) and that led me to try them again after college."
Maloy entered the Belleplain Triathlon (a swim-bike-run) in June 2008 and placed fourth.
"I was encouraged by that," Maloy said. "I was pretty good at the swim and run, but I never knew people could bike so fast. I got some coaching in Philadelphia and my biking improved quickly."
He was the overall winner of the National Amateur Triathlon in 2009 at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala., topping about 2,000 competitors.
"It was my first major win, and it felt pretty awesome," Maloy said. "I decided to turn pro in 2010."
Unlike the much longer "Iron Man" distance, the standard Olympic distance is quick and painful.
"The distance of Iron Man triathlons is what (gets people's attention)," Maloy said. "The shorter races are more about speed and racing each other. Tactics really play into it. It gets really intense."
Jack Braconnier, 28, of Philadelphia, is Maloy's training partner. Braconnier is an Iron Man triathlete who finished 16th overall in the Pro Division at the Challenge Atlantic City Triathlon on June 29, the same day as Maloy's Chicago race.
"Everybody's really strong in the swim and the bike, but then Joe does about a five-minute mile or better in the 10K, and there's only a handful of people in the world who can do that," Braconnier said. "He's the best triathlete in the country."
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