More College Athletes Are Trekking for the Ironman
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii — Ivan Roshak was just in his writing class at Portland State University when he spotted a classmate wearing shorts and a distinctive red tattoo on his right ankle on a cold winter day.
“Are you an Ironman?” Rochak asked Will Watson, his classmate.
Yes. Actually, Watson got the tattoo done after qualifying for the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii this year. And since Rochak had Ironman aspirations, he began training with Watson, and eventually qualified this summer.
The two Oregon students are part of an unusually large contingent of graduate students who are here to race the triathlon’s summit. At least a dozen men and women from NCAA schools, from Clemson to Dartmouth, and Loyola Chicago to the University of Utah, are taking a week off from classes, and juggling midterm exams and papers in which to compete. Triathletes call Kona.
The increase can be explained, in part, by the coronavirus pandemic, as these athletes, by nature, have been hypercompetitive, doing long runs, indoor and outdoor bike rides, and endless pool laps to overcome isolation and set new goals. adopted.
But more broadly, triathlons are having a moment among young athletes. More than 40 NCAA schools now offer women’s triathlon as a varsity sport, up from a handful less than a decade ago, the latest being the University of Arizona. And while college athletes are now free to make money from arrangements that capitalize on their renown (known as name, image, and likeness deals), competing in extreme sports like triathlons is more financially realistic.
Little wonder, then, that Ironman, hoping to spur interest among college sports fans, announced a 70.3-mile run in July 2023 at State College, Pa., at the 50-yard line of Penn State’s Beaver Stadium. would end. ,
“The traditional meaning is that you don’t do these races when you’re young and your body is still developing, and it’s an old retired father’s game because he has the time and financial freedom to do these things. is,” said Rochak, 22, a senior history major. “But I think there’s a new understanding of what young people can do.”
The Ironman total is 140.6 miles — 2.4 miles swimming, 112 miles cycling and 26.2 miles running — and must be completed in 17 hours. That’s more than twice the swim leg of an Olympic triathlon and more than four times the bike and run legs.
Kona is actually the second championship to be held in 2022. The 2021 edition of the race, which was postponed by the pandemic, was held in St. George, Utah in May – the first time the championship has been staged outside of Hawaii. The 2020 race was cancelled.
To announce their return to Hawaii, Ironman, which is owned by Advance Publications, invited Chris Nikic, the first person with Down syndrome to meet Ironman, and Sebastian Bellin, a former Belgian professional. Basketball player, who almost lost his leg during 2016 Brussels. To counter, among others, terrorist attacks.
With 82 professional triathletes vying for the $125,000 first place prize, this year’s race marked the first time the men’s and women’s races were held on separate days since the first Hawaiian Iron Man Triathlon in 1978 .
Upset, Chelsea Sodaro of Mill Valley, Calif., a former All-American runner at the University of California, Berkeley, captured the women’s race Thursday in 8 hours 33 minutes 46 seconds. Defending champion Daniela Raif of Switzerland finished eighth half an hour behind Sodaro.
The men’s race began on Saturday morning, and the leaders were expected to finish by mid-afternoon. Norway’s Kristian Blumenfeldt, the defending champion and Olympic gold medalist, was the prohibitive favourite. One of the sentimental choices, however, was 2019 runner-up Tim O’Donnell, competing in his first race since he nearly died of a heart attack, midrace, in March 2021.
More than 5,000 people registered for Kona, about half of whom came from Europe. And while the average contestant’s age was 45, the youngest of about 100 people—a large contingent—were 18 to 24 years old.
Since 2011, the number of women aged 18 to 24 who have registered for Kona has increased by 68 percent and that of men by 56 percent.
“There’s some magic here,” said Sarah Sawaya, a 19-year-old hostess at the University of Mississippi, who was the youngest American participant. “I’m so glad I got to experience it.”
Most American college students had participated in swimming or cross-country in high school. Some, like Savaya, have parents or siblings who have done marathons or triathlons.
Two were skilled skiers in Oregon (slopestyle) and Utah (big mountain). Another had played high school golf outside of Chicago for four years.
A common thread, however, was a fascination for pushing the boundaries of endurance at a younger and younger age, thanks in part to the Norwegian success in long-distance running.
“Norwegians dominate,” Roshak said. “They’re young, and they’re rewriting the rule book to be what your body needs.”
The youngest male qualifier, 20-year-old Payton Thompson, said he is amazed at the Norwegian’s obsession with data analysis, science and nutrition.
Thompson was once a promising point keeper, playing for the top youth basketball teams in North Florida. But after serious knee injuries, he gave up on his dream of playing college hoops and enrolled at Duke with pre-med aspirations.
Then the pandemic struck. And although he lived on campus while taking online classes, he was unable to join as many clubs as he had originally hoped. So voila, triathlon.
“I had to learn to swim,” said neuroscience major Thompson.
Thompson is one of three Ironman students in the Research Triangle. Andrew Buchanan of Redondo Beach, Calif., is a senior at the University of North Carolina. Corinne Mauve, a native of Pittsgrove, NJ, is a senior at the state of North Carolina, and is active in the school’s triathlon club.
Even though Mauve’s classmates were sent home in March 2020 because of the pandemic, she remained in Raleigh, working in a cooperative job that was part of her mechanical engineering major. But everyone stayed connected through Strava, an online exercise-tracking tool.
“Even though I couldn’t see my friends, I could see them doing their workouts,” she said.
Competition costs can be prohibitive and can easily amount to $15,000 a year, Rochak estimates, for a coach, a bicycle, separate suits for land and water, race registration fees and more. Sponsorships with companies can cover costs through discounts on clothing and equipment, but many triathletes depend on their families and work part-time jobs.
Finances have always been big for Frazier Williamson, 24, of Cassville, Utah, who received a scholarship to run cross-country for Weber State.
After a two-year Mormon mission in the Philippines, Williamson, now a junior, was training with his college mates and getting back in shape. But he learned he would not receive the scholarship as the athletic department tightened its spending during the pandemic.
“Either I’ll have what is essentially a full-time job running for college and find another full-time job to pay for college, or I can read the writing on the wall and try something else,” he said. Told.
Jordan Ambrose, 20, almost committed to swimming for McKendry University in Illinois as a runner. But when she was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, she stopped swimming and enrolled at Southern Indiana University near her home in Mount Vernon, India.
Itching for activity during the pandemic, she began training for a marathon with her cousin. Only when she realized she could swim long distances without pain did triathlons come up as an option.
After finishing his first triathlon, Ambrose was approached by Trine University in northeastern Indiana, which won the NCAA Division III triathlon title in 2021. Are you interested in relocating?
Ambrose was interested, but declined, as she wanted to join the Southern Indiana swim team in her first season.
After completing the Ironman in 13 hours 12 minutes 9 seconds, she said, “Now I will focus on swimming.” “The team, the competitive environment – I love it all.”
Trine is one of 14 NCAA Division III schools that participate in sprint triathlons in the fall. The race consists of a 750m swim, a 20km bike ride and a 5km run. There are 15 schools in Division II and 12 schools in Division I that participate, the title is given by the state of Arizona, which has won five straight national titles. More than 300 women from 24 countries are on the roster.
By 2024, triathlon could become an official NCAA championship sport. And soon, the USA Triathlon Foundation will launch a collective, funded by donors, that will pay NCAA triathletes through name, image and likeness deals to promote the sport on social media, USA Triathlon’s chief sport development Officer Tim Yount said.
During Thursday’s Ironman race in hot and humid conditions, there were moments when Savaya, a Mississippi student, felt she couldn’t continue. She stumbled on her bike, collided with the fierce crosswind of the Big Island. His feet were covered with blisters.
“While running, I was asleep,” said Sawaya, a student studying biomedical engineering.
But she did thank volunteers donning canary-colored T-shirts who lined the course and befriended other triathletes. As night fell, a man who ran with her for 10 miles told her that she had a daughter of her age.
So when she finished in 15 hours 34 minutes 19 seconds, a bead of light rain, she raised her arms and smiled. it was 10:19 pm
“So many stories,” she said. “All the pain, all the pain – it was worth it.”
However, she had little time to rest, as she had to prepare for an online organic chemistry exam at 9 a.m.