Pre-Race Thoughts: USA Triathlon Youth & Junior National Championships

By USA Triathlon | Aug. 02, 2019, 4:25 p.m. (ET)

Nearly 1,000 rising stars ages 7-19 are set to compete this weekend at the USA Triathlon Youth & Junior National Championships, held at Voice of America Park in West Chester, Ohio, for the eighth consecutive year. Competitors hail from 42 states, representing 60 different multisport clubs.

USA Triathlon caught up with a few athletes to get their thoughts ahead of race weekend.

What are you most excited for this weekend?

“Just the high energy and the amount of people who are here. All this love for the sport and the community is really present for this race, so that’s fun to see.” 
— Mia Henderson, 17, eNRG Performance

“Mostly the swim and the bike because when I go from the swim to the bike, I can feel the breeze in my face. With how hot it’s supposed to be on Sunday, that breeze will be nice. I also got a new road bike, so I can start turning my feet faster.”
— Halee Simons, 13, IABT Multisport Racing

“People come from all over the country, so getting to meet people and see all my friends who I haven’t seen in a while is fun.”
— Brenna Zerby, 15, Playtri

What are your goals for this race?


“My goal for the weekend is definitely to beat last year’s time and to have fun with it. This course is hard and it’s a good challenge, but you know, just have fun with it, try to get better, always have a smile on your face and have a good time. As long as I’m making forward progression, I’m happy.”
— Cole Ridenour, 17, Strive Youth and Junior Team

“Top-10 I would be really excited with. I was 14th two years ago, and last year I had a bit of a rough race still injured, so top-10 would be my goal. But really, just to look for little improvements too. A lot of the time it’s not always the finishing place that’s the success at the end of the day.”
— Kemper Reback, 18, Triton Elite Multisport

What do you like most about racing and training with your club?

“Coming to the races and having someone to talk to and someone to warm up with, it makes it more enjoyable and takes away the stress.”
— Joe Guthinger, 14, E3 Endurance

“I love my team, and during the summer when we train these are my best friends and the most important people in my life. I’ve learned so much from them, and from things that my coach and my teammates bring to help me grow and help me better myself in the sport and as a person."
— Mia Henderson, 17, eNRG Performance

“Normally when you train, you’re working really hard and trying to become better, but it can get a little bit lonely sometimes. So when you’re with other people, you get to talk to people and have fun with it while you’re still trying to do your best."
— Madison Wick, 14, Strive Youth and Junior Team

What is your favorite thing about the sport of triathlon?

“The bike, ‘cause I like going really fast.”
 — Ethan Courson, 10, Stellar Endurance

“I like the training variety especially. I get kind of bored just doing one sport, so it’s nice being able to get all three in."
— Molly Elliott, 17, Strive Youth and Junior Team

“My favorite part of triathlon racing on the youth and junior circuit is that I like racing with kids my own age. The hardest part, I feel like, is the end of the run.”
— Alex Norland, 13, Strive Youth and Junior Team

“I think this sport is awesome because a lot of things tie into your regular life. It’s taught me diligence and determination, focus, and pushing through things even when they’re hard. Also, a big part of it is learning to be positive, even when something’s difficult. These races are very difficult and there will definitely be things in life that are that way too.”
— Kemper Reback, 18, Triton Elite Multisport 

Tell us about a training day you had in the lead-up to this race left you feeling super prepared.

“I think the hardest training day was probably the day that I had to run with a rain jacket on, do half-mile repeats with a jacket on to do heat acclimation.” 
— Keller Norland, 16, Strive Youth and Junior Team

“That’s tough because a lot of the hard training days, beforehand you might be dreading it and then during you might still be dreading it and feel like you’re dying, but then afterwards you always feel satisfied. About a week-and-a-half ago, we had a team training camp. We did some swim-bike-run repeats, like Groundhog Day stuff, so that was pretty rough. But afterwards you do leave it feeling confident, like, ‘Okay, I can do this. I just did 10 of them over and over, and this is just one.”
— Kemper Reback, 18, Triton Elite Multisport

“I did a couple of five-minute bike intervals at race pace, and those were pretty tough because they were on two-and-a-half minutes rest, so it was a lot of hard with not a lot of rest in the middle. It was a pretty good bike workout, and I’m feeling pretty good on the bike right now.” 
— Drew Shellenberger, 17, unattached

If you could choose any two animals to be a part of your triathlon relay team, which would you choose (and what leg would you do)?

“I think I would probably do the bike, and I would choose a dolphin for the swim and a cheetah for the run." 
— Amanda Phillip, 14, Strive Youth and Junior Team

“I would do the swim. I’d have a cheetah for the run, and a lion for the bike.”
— Halee Simons, 13, IABT Multisport Racing

“I would do the running leg. I’d have a fish for the swim, and a giraffe do the bike.”
— Brenna Zerby, 15, Playtri

If you could have any triathlon superpower, what would you choose?

“Super speed on the bike.”
— Austin Courson, 8, Stellar Endurance

“To be able to run without overheating.”
— Joe Guthinger, 14, E3 Endurance

“I feel like I would want to read everybody’s minds so I could then play the tactical game really well. I would know when someone’s going to attack and know what’s going to happen. Then I could formulate my plan off of that.”
— Drew Shellenberger, 17, unattached

For more information about the 2019 USA Triathlon Youth & Junior National Championships, visit usatriathlon.org/jr2019.