The newest club sport on campus is one of the most challenging athletic activities: triathlon. While the idea of running a three-sport event may intimidate some people, the founding members of the triathlon club team have embraced the sport and encouraged others to do the same.
“I ran my first triathlon a few years ago,” said Vihn Nguyen, an international relations major who started the club in the spring of 2011. “I saw local and national schools competing and I wondered how come SF State doesn’t have one. So I started one.”
The triathlon team has grown exponentially in the last year. Nguyen, who started the club with only four members, has managed to gain more than 30 participants, turning his “pet project” into one of the most challenging and impacted club sports on campus. While other clubs hold practices, the participants of the triathlon team have dedicated five days a week to training sessions to focus on each phase of the sport.
As a cyclist, Nguyen started the team by recruiting friends who were interested in running or swimming to complete the three-part sport. The group coached one another to excel in each event, and joined the West Coast Collegiate Triathlon Conference to compete against other universities.
Nguyen recruited many members of the team by approaching people at the pool and track. Nguyen thought that recruiting participants to compete in the grueling and strenuous sport would be difficult. To his surprise, the club gained almost immediate attnetion, attracting recreational athletes campus-wide.
Club treasurer Billy Krenzer, 24, was a runner who joined the team as a challenge and become quickly invested in the club. to compete in the grueling and strenuous sport.
“I had never run a triathlon, but I thought, ‘why not?’” Krezner said. “It was a challenge at first, but once I got involved it was an easy transition, and it’s rewarding.”
Competing in the multi-sport event takes determination and endurance. The transitions between the individual components can prove to be the most difficult part.
Krezner said that although triathlons are traditionally three sports, it could feel like five events with the difficulty of the transitions. According to Nguyen, many of the team’s athletes had never participated in a triathlon, but were encouraged and inspired by the founding members. Although triathlons are individual competitions, the team signs up together as a unified group.
“We’re still getting our feet wet,” Nguyen said. “But we are continuing to grow and get sponsors.”
The three parts to a triathlon each require different equipment, making the sport one of the most expensive. To help the team, Nguyen and club president Ben Franich have worked to gain the interest of sponsors who offer the team discounted equipment and products.
“Competing with a decent bike can make or break you,” Franich, 23, said. “It hinders your ability to continue, so we have sponsors.”
With eight sponsors, the triathlon team has more than any other club team. Although the team doesn’t get paid or receive merchandise for free, sponsors such as Sports Basement and GU Energy Gel offer discounted prices for larger orders.
“We’ve seen a pretty good response,” Franich said. “The sponsors help us a lot in the competitions.”
The triathlon team will compete three times this semester against various schools. The team picks up the intensity during training practices and swims in the bay at Aquatic Park to prepare for these competitions. Apart from the gratifying completion of the event, Nguyen said the best part of being on the team is the friendships he has formed through the positive atmosphere of triathlon competitions.
“It’s a humbling experience,” Nguyen said. “It’s a whole atmosphere I’ve never experienced before.”
The founding members are impressed with the way everyone has stepped up and contributed to the team. Nguyen had not anticipated this amount of participation and dedication, but he said he feels lucky to have contributed to his school and the community.
“If in 10 years I’m at a race and I see a kid racing in an SF State uniform or something, I can say I started that,” Nguyen said. “I think that’d be pretty cool.”