Triathlon training at Sanford leads to national titles

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

Sanford Wellness triathlon coach poses with three youth champs in front of a USA Triathlon championship banner.

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 nine months out of the year, Grady — who is USAT Level I Certified — takes approximately 50 triathletes (about 30 youth and 20 adults) and cross-trains them three to four days each week.

On Mondays, the group is in the pool before heading outside for a run on park trails. On Wednesdays, they train in all three disciplines, including open water swimming at Wall Lake in Hartford. Then on Thursdays, they’re off to Yankton Trail Park for biking and running. In between, individual athletes may train even more for their upcoming races, depending on their age, skill level, and length of race.

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 truly paid off this summer at the Zone3 USA Youth National Championships in Ohio. Six of Coach Grady’s athletes finished on the podium, including three national champions in their gender and age groups.

“When they started coming in the announcer (called) the second place person, which was the girl on my team, he said, ‘Ruth Pardy from Sioux Falls, South Dakota.’ And then the next person came in and he said, ‘Mia Wentzy from Sioux Falls!’ … In the next race, the same thing happened. ‘In third place it’s Evan Mahrous from Sioux Falls!’ He was like ‘What the heck are they doing in Sioux Falls, South Dakota? Is this the new Mecca of triathlon?’” Grady said with a smile and a laugh.

“Well, the next day then when my youth kids were racing, I ended up with three who were national champions: Evelyn DeGeest (10 years old), Lila Knutson (9), and Keegan Reilly (7). You just don’t see that many kids getting on the podium from one location!”

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 3-4 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 coaches Hannah Droge, Jadon Johnson and Andrew Grady.

“The kids in my program are so dedicated,” Grady added. “When they come to practice, they don’t even question what I ask them to do. I just think to myself, ‘There’s no way I’d been doing this when I was 9 years old.’ 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, Sioux Falls, Sports Medicine