Oregon club triathlon trains for coming season amid decreased membership
This season, membership on the Oregon club triathlon is lower than it has been in years. Currently, 14 people are on the squad, much less than 2013’s record-high of 25.
Though the numbers are down, three-year member and club coordinator Matthew Dracker isn’t able to point to one thing as the source of the problem.
“It is hit or miss with triathlon,” Dracker said. “It’s not a steady flow of incoming freshmen like most sports.”
With such a unique sport, most of the incoming freshmen seek out the club on their own initiative. The few times Dracker does try to recruit new members, he has had to come up with creative methods. Once, he and a fellow coordinator went around campus placing team fliers in the spokes of nice bikes.
One of the few new freshmen on this year’s team is pre-business major Devin Au. Unlike many collegiate triathletes, Au joined the team with experience in the sport — having competed for his high school team.
“My motive for joining the team was to get fit and meet more people,” Au said. “Hopefully, I can build strong relationships with the team.”
So far, Au has found everyone on the club to be welcoming and supportive, traits that lend themselves to a successful program.
Relying on each other is even more important this year, as its the first year the club hasn’t had a coach. The decision was made for financial reasons and because team leaders like Dracker believed they could divvy up the responsibilities between several people.
Dracker primarily serves as the team’s running and biking coach, while other members of the squad have stepped up as the swim coach. The intensity of each practice is scaled to fit each person’s level, so no one feels like they are being held back or left behind.
“It’s very competitive; we push each other,” sophomore Kennedy Salveter said of the club’s culture. “But in the end its all fun, we always celebrate our races and have a good time.”
Salveter has been on the club since his freshman year and says that joining was the best decision he has made in college.
Right now, the club is in the offseason. The club trains six days a week, with a double practice on Mondays, in preparation for its first race, the March Triathlon, which will be held in San Louis Obispo, California during Spring Break.
The race will feature the top competitors from California and Colorado, which, according to Dracker, are the best states in the country for producing triathlon talent.
“It definitely is one of the hardest races of the season, especially starting things off,” Salveter said.
Salveter competed in the same race last year, and he would like to see his times improve with an entire year of experience under his belt.
As for Dracker, amidst all of the changes this season, one thing remains constant —the goal for Oregon club triathlon.
“My biggest goal every year is to keep the team going and keep the team building,” Dracker said. “The best way to do that is get people to love the sport as much as possible.”
Follow Christopher Keizur on Twitter @chriskeizur
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