Get an Insider's Look Into the Cal Triathlon Experience

By Annabeth McKay | April 16, 2018, 5:28 p.m. (ET)

Courtesy Cal Triathlon

Welcome to Bear Territory. A place where personality shines just as brightly as the multitude of accomplishments this team possesses.

Cal Triathlon, one of the largest club sports teams at the University of California, Berkeley, is comprised of 150 active members who range from national champions and Olympic hopefuls to first-timers of the sport. Whether taking on team challenges at training camp or giving flight attendants a run for their money on a flight home, this club is all about the friendships and memories that members can take away at the end of the day.

USA Triathlon caught up with the president of Cal Triathlon to find out what it’s really like to be a Bear and learn what the team is looking forward to most at the 2018 USA Triathlon Collegiate Club National Championships.

USA Triathlon: What is the funniest memory of your team that you can recall?

Mariko Stenstedt, Cal Triathlon Club President: One of the highlights of Nationals last year was the flight home. Southwest allowed some of the guys on our team to pass out the mid-flight snacks to the entire plane! Also, on this flight, our whole team became Snapchat friends with our head coach. The flight was a great way to conclude Nationals and continue to grow closer as a team.

USAT: Do you have a team goal before a race?

MS: Go out and have fun! It is all about doing your best. On race day, the best thing to get ourselves pumped up is our team cheer. We form two circles — guys on the outside, girls on the inside — then jump in opposite directions while we spell out California. We really emphasize that every single member out on the race course matters, regardless of where they may place.

USAT: Does your team have certain music to get pumped up for a race?

MS: Our coach, Dean Harper, started a “My Top 10” playlist challenge for our weekly trainer sessions. Every week, team members submit their top 10 favorite songs in a playlist to Dean. Some weeks the playlists will be themed, such as all Taylor Swift or all reggae.

USAT: Are there any team bonding activities that your team does throughout the season?

MS: At our week-long winter camp in Oceanside, California, we hold nightly class competitions. These include Cal Tri trivia challenges, ultimate games, scavenger hunts and dance competitions. The competitions always go down as a great bonding experience. This year we also added in an “Iron Chef” challenge, in which every night, a cooking group would make dinner for the entire team. The meals were rated on taste, quantity and creativity.

USAT: What is the team dynamic like during a race?

MS: We are quite competitive but also very supportive. If a teammate passes someone on the course, they cheer them on. After you finish a race, you double back on the course to cheer on everyone who is still racing. At the end of the day, we are trying to do well as a team, not just as individual players.

USAT: Describe your outlook for Nationals this year.

MS: We’re excited for the whole weekend. We have already picked out a spirit theme and storyboarded our Journey to Nats video. We also do an annual Nats photoshoot and a poster-making day where the women’s team makes signs for the men’s team and vice versa. We’ve been working very hard all season. I think we are all extremely excited to see our consistent hard work pay off.

Cal Triathlon will be competing at the 2018 USA Triathlon Collegiate Club National Championships in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on April 27-28. Learn more about the event on usatriathlon.org/cn2018.