Posted by: rcieri | November 15, 2009

Swim, cycle, run, bond: Triathletes capture team mentality for individual sport

stephen

Sophomore club president Stephen Rusterholz competes individually in the triathlon, but trains with the rest of the club to make it a team effort. Photo submitted.

November 3, 2009

By Rachel Cieri

Triathlons may be primarily an individual sport, but the members of Elon’s triathlon club function as a team.

“When we run, we try to stick together, and when we spread out, we always group back up again,” said sophomore club president Stephen Rusterholz. “One of the officers and I will drop back to run with the slower members.”

Team members meet four times a week for practice, two days running or cycling and two days swimming, although much of their training is done on their own time. Because the triathlon is so physically intensive, members must make sure to train correctly and maintain healthy diets before any race.

Sophomore member Annie Huth said she had no experience with running or swimming when she joined the team, and the camaraderie and support from other club members was, at one point, the only thing that kept her going.

“I almost quit a few times at the beginning because I hated running and was so slow, but everyone was so nice and encouraging, and sticking it out has been one of the best decisions of my college experience,” she said.

annie

Sophomore Annie Huth nears the finish line at the Emerald Isle Triathlon. Photo submitted

It helped that Huth’s roommate, sophomore Haley Pope, joined as well. A veteran triathlon competitor, Pope completed her fourth race during fall break on the club’s trip to Emerald Isle, N.C.

Junior member Leah Darkes calls the trip one of her favorite club memories. The group stayed at Rusterholz’s beach house and relaxed together after the race, having an impromptu cookout and listening to a club member play guitar.

“We go every year, but this year was especially fun,” Darkes said. “It was freezing during the race, 50 degrees and nothing but a bathing suit, but almost everyone got a medal. It was great to finish an individual race with such a team-oriented mindset.”

The triathlon club has seen quite a bit of success. The races, which are scored according to age group and gender, typically give awards to the fastest three competitors in each group.

Rusterholz estimates about three-fourths of the club regularly finishes in the top three of their respective groups.

The triathlon club has become a haven for former high school athletes ready to try something new.

Freshman Thomas Berry is a member of a junior bike racing team in Maryland, his home state, and he said the triathlon club has given him the chance to compete at Elon.

Rusterholz has been running for years, but he joined the club as a way to connect with his father, who has been competing in triathlons all his life.

“It’s a way to do what they love and take it to another level,” Rusterholz said.

For now, the club’s race schedule is based on where it will realistically be able to travel and when multiple club members will have the time to commit to a race, but the club hopes to compete in larger, national races in the near future.

“The races we’ve done have really loved having a big group of college kids there to compete, and it would be great to get other schools involved in that, as well,” Huth said.

Rusterholz and several other club members echoed Huth’s ambitions. They said with more funding they could fly to more distant races or even hold a   collegiate race at Elon. The possibilities are limitless, Rusterholz said.

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