Lakenheath's Billington looks toward a bright future in triathlon
LAUSANNE, Switzerland — After competing here in the World Triathlon Championships last week, Lakenheath High School senior Greg Billington now turns his attention to the more mundane job of defending his European high school cross country championship.
And it’s not a bit of a comedown, he says.
“I’m still looking forward to it,” Billington said of the high school cross country season, which begins Sept. 16.
The top student and disciplined athlete delivered his assessment while cooling down Saturday after placing 42nd among 93 finishers from around the globe in the 2006 World Juniors Triathlon.
A member of the U.S. national junior team, Billington finished 2 minutes, 55 seconds behind the winner, Alistair Brownlee of Great Britain.
Billington completed his 750-meter swim, 20-kilometer road bike race and 2.5-kilometer run in a total of 61 minutes, 57 seconds.
But Billington received even more encouragement for his budding triathlon career than just placing in the top half of the world’s best juniors.
Three days earlier, Billington won the juniors world championship in the Aquathon, a combination 1K swim and 5K run, by a whopping 1:13 over runner-up Eder Meija of Mexico. Billington clocked 28:13 in the event, which combined his two strongest events in the endurance-testing triathlon.
It was just 14 seconds slower than the time posted by the elite men’s Aquathon champion.
“I’ve been swimming since I was 8,” Billington said. “I’ve been playing around with the triathlon since I was 8, but I never seriously started training for it until I was 16.”
Billington’s success in the 2006 triathlon season has to be a momentum-maker. The youngest of the racers here in the 16- to 19-year-old juniors category, Billington qualified for last week’s races by finishing second in the U.S. Junior Elite championship in August at Bridgeport, Conn.
He has two seasons left at the juniors level, and U.S. coach Scott Schnitzspan is intrigued by the possibilities.
“We’ve seen Greg race,” he said Saturday. “We hope to bring him to the States next summer.”
The lengthy gap between Saturday and “next summer” underscores the isolation of even world-class triathletes.
“The triathlon season is two months long,” Schnitzspan said. “We have a few camps and can work on fine tuning at the races, but we depend on our athletes’ having quality local coaching throughout the year.”
Billington, a member of British running and swimming clubs, is covered on that score.
“I get a lot of help from my British coaches,” he said, adding that the dietary demands of his sport are well-met by his mother.
“I’ve always eaten healthy,” he said.
And the national coaching staff is just a mouse-click away, too.
“We have a program online where athletes can post workout times,” Schnitzspan said. “We can track their training and even monitor their heart rates.”
For his part, Billington, who trains 20 hours a week, plans to stay wired to his sport.
“My future’s in triathlon,” he said.