Q&A with Youth & Junior National Champions

By USA Triathlon | Aug. 04, 2017, 1:57 p.m. (ET)

zach wilson

The top youth and junior athletes from around the country will compete for national titles at the 2017 USA Triathlon Youth & Junior National Championships this weekend. We caught up with 2016 defending champions Cassidy Hickey of Parker, Colorado, who won the 13-year-old age group at Youth Nationals, and Zach Wilson of Carmel, Indiana, who took home the Youth Elite Men overall title.

USA Triathlon: Congratulations on your win from 2016! What was the highlight of the event?
Cassidy Hickey:
Going into Nationals can be very nerve rattling. My highlight was really the accomplishment of the sport. Watching the sport of triathlon grow as quickly has been a real motivation, knowing that there is a future to look forward to. With collegiate-level racing and high school now available, triathlon has really gone a long way. I love seeing hundreds of kids of all levels come together and compete.

USAT: What are you most looking forward to about competing at Nationals this year?
Zach Wilson: Now that I have moved up to juniors, it has been a very challenging year. Trying to adapt to the bike was very difficult for me the first few races. However, going into Nationals I'm very excited because I feel like my swim and bike are there. I'm looking forward to trying to make front pack and then hold my position there, but at the end of the day, even if the race doesn't go my way I will be satisfied knowing I tried my hardest. 

USAT: How did you get your start in triathlon, and what’s your favorite part of the sport?
ZW: I did my first triathlon when I was about 8 years old. It was a local one through Kids TRI for Kids in Indiana. I didn't start racing consistently and competitively until I was about 12. The reason for the love of the sport is because during those early years I was a top-level swimmer and runner. Most of the time coaches were pushing me to choose one or the other. Through triathlon though I could do both sports and throw in another. What I liked most about triathlon and continue to enjoy is the social aspect. For me, there's nothing like going out on a group run or ride and pushing yourself and racing each other. Also, in a pool practice doing fast 50s with some friends and just suffering to the max. I enjoy these moments because I have people to do them with and that makes all the difference.

USAT: Do you have any tips for athletes competing at Youth & Junior Nationals for the first time?
CH: Have fun. Enjoy the journey of the training toward a goal. I know that training sometimes can get hard, but the reward is crossing that finish line feeling proud. 

Read the race preview here, and follow live coverage on Twitter @USATlive and usatriathlon.org.