The 22-year old east Cobb resident and former Walton track and cross country standout earned the biggest prize of his career when he won the men’s 20-24 age group and finished runner-up overall in the sprint distance at the USA Triathlon age group national championships in Burlington, Vt. on Aug. 24.
Pilliod’s age group triumph in the sprint distance race completed a successful weekend, in which he also finished 17th overall and sixth in the men’s 20-24 category in the event’s Olympic distance race the day before.
“Obviously, I would have liked to have won both races overall, but I’m very happy with the way things worked out both days,” Pilliod said. “I’m very excited to have won a national championship.”
As a result, Pilliod qualified for the 2013 ITU age group triathlon world championships next September in London in both distances.
Since the event allows competitors to take part in only one of the events, Pilliod has decided to compete in the Olympic distance, which will be contested on the same course that the triathlon competition was held at the Olympics last month.
“I’m looking forward to that,” Pilliod said. “It will definitely be the biggest race I have ever been at. I’ll be able to race on the Olympic course and that’s something not all triathletes can say that they did.”
The sprint distance is the shortest one in triathlon, which includes swimming, cycling and running. Sprint features a 750-meter (0.47 mile) swim, a 12-mile cycling portion and a 5K (3.1-mile) running.
The Olympic distance, which — as the name implies — is the one contested at the Summer Olympics, features a 0.93-mile swim, 25-mile bike race and 10K (6.2-mile) run.
Pilliod finished the sprint distance race in a time of 58 minutes, 44 seconds to win the men’s 20-24 title and to place runner-up overall behind Patrick Parish of Bloomington, Ind. (57:46).
He started the race with a time of 9:44 in the 750-meter swim portion, then finished the 12-mile bike ride in 30:08 and completed the race in strong fashion with a 16:43 in the 5K run.
“Starting out, my swim was pretty strong,” Pilliod said. “The water was pretty calm and being a strong swimmer, I took it out pretty quick. When I started the bike, my legs were still fatigued from (the Olympic distance race on) Saturday (Aug. 23), but I was able to ride pretty well. I knew that to have a chance to win my age group, I had to run one of my best times and I ran 16:43, which was one of my fastest 5K times.”
The day before, Pilliod completed the Olympic distance race with a time of 1:59:26 — completing the swim in 20:45, the bike ride in 1:01:55 and the run in 34:45.
Pilliod competed at a triathlon in Des Moines, Iowa on Sunday and will take part in a couple of more races in 2012.
He is also looking forward to beginning his fifth and final year at Georgia Tech, where he is scheduled to earn his degree in Mechanical Engineering next spring.
Pilliod was a member of the Georgia Tech cross country team his first two years there before deciding to devote himself solely to triathlon.
Pilliod has established himself on the amateur level in triathlon over the last few years, achieving a No. 5 ranking in the nation in the men’s15-19 age group in 2006.
Currently ranked 29th in the nation in the men’s 20-24 category, Pilliod is looking to eventually move up into the professional triathlon ranks.
“This year, I have had a huge jump in training and it is paying off,” Pilliod said. “After this year, after I graduate, I would like to continue my career in triathlon and becoming pro in the future in the next year or two.”
In the meantime, Pilliod is focused on the world championships, which will be held Sept. 12-16, 2013 in London.
“Obviously, I’m going to be focused on my final year in college,” Pilliod said. “But, looking ahead, I would like to finish in the top 10 at the worlds. As far as my time (in the race), it’s too early to tell as this point. But, I’m looking forward to it.”