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Collegiate Recruitment Athletes Begin New Triathlon Journey in Clermont
March marks the start of the triathlon racing season for many, including elite athletes, who will be competing Saturday in Clermont, Fla., at the Clermont ITU Sprint Triathlon Pan American Cup. This race has given new professional triathletes a chance to test the waters before jumping into what can sometimes be an intense season, full of travel and tough competition.
Gwen Jorgensen is one athlete who knows just how Clermont can open doors to a whole new world.
“The Clermont race was my first competitive triathlon, and it was also the place where I earned my pro card,” said Jorgensen, who will be representing the U.S. this summer at the London 2012 Olympic Games. “This year, it will be my third year competing in the race, and it is exciting for me because it is where my triathlon career began.”
Jorgensen’s start in triathlon can be attributed to the Collegiate Recruitment Program, which identifies collegiate swimmers or runners who could make the transition to triathlon after graduation. Each year new recruits toe the line and start their professional triathlon careers in Clermont, just like Jorgensen did in 2010.
Though there are a number of races available to new elite triathletes, racing on home soil in Clermont is a popular choice, and because athletes like Jorgensen have found success there, others know that the possibilities are endless, even if they are just beginning.
“It is thrilling to know that the level of racing can advance so quickly,” said Nicole Truxes, who hails from the University of Arizona. “Knowing that in this same program there are athletes who have improved astronomically from where they started makes it very easy to get out of bed in the morning to train hard.”
The Collegiate Recruitment Program is led by 2004 Olympian Barb Lindquist, who was once a collegiate swimmer herself at Stanford before beginning her 10-year career as an elite triathlete. The program mentors athletes on the steps and skills needed to become an elite triathlete, and helps them with the transition through camps, clinics and coaching.
“The Collegiate Recruitment Program has honestly been eye opening for me,” said Feeney, who started considering triathlon after Delaware dropped its men’s running programs. “Barb was extremely helpful during this time, as she helped me to see that I had a pretty awesome opportunity in triathlon.”
Feeney, like other collegiate recruits, was invited to participate in a camp at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., which gave him more insight to his decision to pursue multisport. “The camp at the OTC was another incredible experience where I learned so much about the sport, training, and met young triathletes from across the country that were interested in the same thing as me,” he said. “It also helped me really understand that triathlon could be a huge part of my life for some time.”
Though some collegiate recruitment athletes may have done a triathlon or two prior to this weekend’s race, this will be their first foray in to the world of draft-legal racing, which is the style of racing contested on the international triathlon circuit, which includes World Cups, the World Triathlon Series and the Olympic Games.
Jorgensen believes that Clermont is a great place for athletes like Feeney and Truxes to put their new skills to the test. “The Clermont race is a great way for beginners to practice a draft-legal format because the race is put on extremely well and is also low-stress,” she said. “The organizers and USA Triathlon gear the race towards beginners and make sure everyone is 100-percent comfortable going into the race. USA Triathlon helps put on a little preview the day before, and the race directors do a great job keeping everyone safe.”
“As cliché as it sounds, I have dreamt of being an Olympian since I started swimming at age 4,” Feeney said. “My biggest goal is to make the 2016 Olympics, and there are plenty of other well-qualified guys racing with the same goal in mind. I want to get the best out of myself, and be able to fulfill my potential.”
Truxes also hopes to swim, bike and run in an Olympic Games one day, and says that the race in Clermont will be a way for her to get her feet wet and really start her life as a professional triathlete.
“I'd really like to use triathlon to push my physical limits and see how far I can go,” Truxes said. “I hope this is only the beginning of a long career in the sport where I will explore not only the draft-legal aspect but also more extreme distances and hopefully race in different places around the world.”