Schools from up and down the California coast that have competed in the race in previous years attended the Treeathlon, Stanford University’s primary fundraiser for its team, on Feb. 27.
“There was definitely some deep competition,” said president of the Gator Triathlon club Vinh Nguyen. “One of the people competing competes at a professional level.”
Hundreds of people lined Seaport Boulevard in the Port of Redwood City to cheer on athletes as the event began with the bike ride portion of the race. Family, friends and fellow teammates cheered from behind the barricades as the race began, wearing school colors and waving banners and flags.
Established just three semesters ago by international relations graduate student Vinh Nguyen, the Gator Triathlon came out of a lack of sports clubs on campus as well as Nguyen’s interest in the sport.
Having seen the strong interest in triathlon clubs from neighboring schools – Stanford, Cal Berkeley and San Jose State University – Nguyen figured that the students at SF State might also express an interest in the sport. However, getting people interested in committing to a club that by name can be intimidating to most, proved tough.
“In the beginning, we would get two to three people attending the workouts,” Nguyen said. “Sometimes no one came.”
For Milena Kalagorgevich, who was new not only to the University but also the city, the triathlon club was the ideal fit. When she saw members of the club tabling last fall, she immediately signed up.
“I moved to San Francisco last semester knowing absolutely no one,” said Kalagorgevich, 21. “The (triathlon) club helped me meet new people and make new connections. It has also provided a healthy outlet for my stress.”
The Gator Triathlon has grown to 25 members since its inception. With this growth, Nguyen, has been able to delegate some of his duties to others.
Prior to the club’s growth, Nguyen was running workouts in addition to establishing the club. Now, there are several designated workout leaders to assist the group and push their teammates to reach their potential while designated officers keep track of the club’s finances and events.
Even though the club is committed to conditioning and competing in a triathlon, those interested in membership do not need previous experience as a triathlete. The Gator Triathon is open to all students who are attracted to a cross-training program, and for those who just want to attend a structured workout.
“People come to us with all abilities and all skills,” Nguyen said.
By allowing all workouts to be attended by people of all skill levels, Kalagorgevich explains that newcomers should not be discouraged when they arrive to their first training session.
“The first week of workouts are like a fitness check to see where everybody’s fitness level is at, and work from there,” Kalagorgevich said.
By utilizing campus facilities such as the gym’s indoor swimming pool and the track, the Gator Triathlon’s workouts are easily accessible to students who join the club. For bike workouts, leaders usually meet team members on campus and then lead a ride through the city.
The main objective is to prepare students to eventually complete a triathlon.
“The club gets students excited,” Nguyen said. “They can be as competitive as possible.”
For Nguyen, Benjamin Franich, William Krenzer, Alexander Ankrom and Milena Kalagorgevich, all of their training prepared them for the Stanford Treeathlon, though the race was downgraded to a duathlon.
Because of the harsh, cold temperatures in the Bay, the swim portion of the race was cancelled; however, those participating in the Gator Triathlon competed strongly during the 20-kilometer bike ride and the just-over-5-kilometer run.
“I have yet to complete a triathlon,” Kalagorgevich said. “Stanford was supposed to be my first. It ended up being my first duathlon.”
Despite the change in course for the race, the Gator Triathlon team fared well against established teams like UC Davis, Sonoma State and UC Santa Cruz. Franich, a WCCTC representative for the club, completed the race in 1 hour, 7 minutes and 29 seconds; Nguyen clocked in at 1 hour, 11 minutes and 31 seconds; Krenzer, a workout leader for the club, finished in 1 hour, 18 minutes and 16 seconds; and Ankrom completed his race in 1 hour, 20 minutes and 35 seconds. Kalagorgevich, the only female participant from the club, clocked in at 1 hour, 9 minutes and 57 seconds.
SF State supporters Andrea Hamel and Sasha Cortes cheered on their team while wearing SF State hoodies and holding up signs.
“They’ve done really good,” said Hamel, 21. “This just goes to show what self-motivation can do.”