Triathlon training at Sanford leads to national titles

Sanford Wellness Center in Sioux Falls home to multiple elite junior triathletes

Triathlon training at Sanford leads to national titles

Triathlon might not be the first sport you think of when you see people working out at the gym, but triathlon coach Kathy Grady and her athletes take full advantage of the resources that are available at the Sanford Wellness Center’s Oxbow location in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Training for triathlon

For more than six months out of the year, Grady, who is a USAT Level II youth and junior certified coach, takes approximately 60 triathletes (40 youth and 20 adults) and they cross-train three to four days each week. Training is offered in the mornings for the youth program and the evenings for the adult and High Performance Team athletes.

Mondays are always pool swims followed by a group run or bike ride. Tuesdays are run workouts which consist of either track workouts or hill repeats. Wednesdays, they train in all three disciplines, including open water swimming at Wall Lake or Lake Alvin. Then on Thursdays, they’re off to Yankton Trail Park for cycling and running and work on transitions. In addition to the group practices, athletes are also encouraged to complete individual training sessions to prepare them for upcoming races.

Grady says her program fits any skill level, and is tailored to all different skill levels and age groups. The only requirement for athletes who are new to the program is the ability to swim 50 yards prior to joining.

Making a splash at nationals

All of that training and hard work is paying off. In 2021, six of Grady’s athletes competing at the Zone3 USA Youth National Championships in Ohio finished on the podium with three national champions in their gender and age groups.

In 2022 at the same event, the team earned three more individual champions and five more who placed fourth or higher in gender and age-group competitions.

“Since Sioux Falls athletes competed so well at the youth age group Nationals in 2021, I don’t think they were as surprised to see Sioux Falls athletes compete exceptionally well again,” Grady said.

In the Junior Elite races, Ruth Pardy finished second in the female 16-17-year-old Junior Developmental race and Evan Mahrous finished fourth in the male 16-17-year-old Junior Development race. Mahrous also finished second in the Junior Elite Developmental Series for the season.

Both Pardy and Mahrous were also selected to attend the USAT Junior Development Camp in Tempe, Arizona in November. Just 14 girls and 14 boys are selected from the entire country to attend this camp.

For the youth age group race, three national champions were crowned:  Autumn Gilhooly (12), Lila Knutson (10, third national championship) and Keegan Reilly (8, second national championship). Three other athletes got on the podium (Addison Reilly, second; Brianna Reilly, third; and Evie DeGeest, fourth).

The Sanford Triathlon Team also competed in the Rip Roar Triathlon Series based out of Des Moines, Iowa. This year there were five races held in Iowa and Nebraska. The Rip Roar Triathlon series is a favorite among the Sioux Falls triathletes.

The Rip Roar motto states that competition, whether with others or with oneself, is valuable and that triathlon is for everyone regardless of talent, training or quality of equipment.

In those five races, a remarkable 70 out of 86 (81%) Sioux Falls athletes finished fifth or higher.

“It was such an awesome accomplishment,” Grady said. “Sioux Falls has definitely become known as a great place to produce top-level triathletes.”

Hard work and great coaching

Grady says to finish a triathlon athletes should, at the least, swim twice a week, bike twice a week, and run twice a week. Her triathletes train together three or four times per week, but depending on their goals, they often work on their own outside of the formalized training sessions. And while she has received a lot of well-earned credit for her team’s successes, she is quick to pass along kind words of her own.

“I’m thankful for my other coaches who helped me coach because there’s no way I could do it without them,” Grady said, about fellow triathlon youth coaches Andrew Grady, Kassie Peters, Mia Wentzy, Evan Mahrous, Jadon Johnson and Hannah Droge.

“The kids in my program are so dedicated,” Grady added. “When they come to practice, they always do what I ask of them.  The dedication and the work ethics they each have is truly amazing.”

With national champions and Olympic hopefuls in her midst, Grady has built an elite triathlon program from the ground up in Sioux Falls. One swim, one bike, and one run at a time.

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Posted In Allied Health, Running, Sanford Sports, Sioux Falls, Sports Medicine