The Post-Journal

Big Goals

Cheryl Burns Tested Against The World’s Best In Montreal

Cheryl Burns.
Cheryl Burns of Jamestown competed with the world’s best in Montreal last weekend. Submitted photo.

As Cheryl Burns evaluated her weekend performance at the World Triathlon Sprint and Relay Championships in Montreal, the Jamestown resident graded herself this way: a ‘C’ on the female age-group sprint on Saturday and an ‘A’ on Sunday’s age-group relay.

Both efforts, however, had their frustrating moments.

In the individual age-group sprint, Burns, 61, toured the 750-meter swim, the 19.2-kilometer bike and the 5-kilometer run in 1 hour, 21 minutes and 18 seconds, good for sixth in the world in the women’s 60-64 division.

But by her estimation, she should have returned home with a medal.

“I came out of the water and I was able to hook up with six to eight 40-45 year old women. The first lap was so fast,” Burns said. “I was supposed to do a second lap and I followed them right into the transition area.

“I did an ‘Oh, god’ moment.”

The younger women actually had completed the bike portion of the triathlon. Burns still had another lap to go.

“I turned around to do the second lap and, at that point, I was all by myself,” she said. “I put everything into that bike.”

That left her without as much energy for the run, the third leg of the triathlon. Burns figures the error on the bike cost her four minutes, which was almost exactly the difference between her and the first-place finisher in her age group.

“Five women beat me,” Burns said. “I made a mistake.”

On Sunday, the agricultural science teacher at Cassadaga Valley Central School turned in a tremendous effort in the Mixed 60-69 sprint age-group relay (300-meter swim, 5-kilometer bike and 1.6-kilometer run), joining two triathletes from Colorado and one from Rochester to post what they believed to be a second-place finish.

Burns, in fact, was so strong that she started her leg of the triathlon with the team in fifth place. When she finished, the team was firmly in second.

A silver medal was soon hanging from her neck and photos of smiling faces were posted to Facebook.

“Every day working toward this I was thinking more about the team than the individual,” Burns said. “I just didn’t want to let this team down. I couldn’t get hurt and I couldn’t get sick. I had to train my best because I didn’t want to let anyone down.”

But just like in the individual triathlon the day before, the unforeseen spoiled the jubilation.

Apparently, someone in Burns’ relay failed to navigate around the buoys correctly in the swim portion of the triathlon, forcing a disqualification. Burns didn’t find out about it until three hours later.

“One of my teammates found me in the park,” she said. “When she told me, it was like a nightmare. … That decision was frustrating, because (what the team was disqualified for) had no bearing on the results.”

Although Burns’ end results over the weekend aren’t what she had hoped for, that isn’t going to stop her from looking for other challenges.

“When you think about your teachable moments, I tell the kids, ‘Make a goal and make it so big that it’s all you think about,'” said Burns, who also competed in the 2018 World Grand Final Age-Group Triathlon in Queensland, Australia where she finished fourth in the world and first in the United States in the women’s 55-59 age group.

Burns said she’ll take a little break from competition, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t thought about other opportunities that could present themselves. Among her interests include finding a way onto the senior Olympic basketball team and becoming a National Guard medic.

“My goals are big,” she said.

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