By Kristen Miller
DASSEL-COKATO, MN Dassel-Cokato High School (DCHS) students in Brooks Helget’s first triathlon training course charged through the elements Tuesday as they swam, ran, and biked their way to the finish line.
Fifteen high school students participated in DC’s first triathlon training course, 12 of which completed the final test of competing in a race just shy of the length of an Olympic triathlon, Helget noted.
Each week of the trimester, students would swim, bike, or run at least once a week as part of the class. Many students would do their own training outside of school, as well, though Helget commented that this spring hasn’t been ideal weather for it.
They also participated in an Army National Guard fitness challenge, which was open to all DCHS students.
As part of the challenge, students took a pre-test to determine their fitness level. They were then challenged to do three exercises in a row two minutes of push ups, two minutes of sit-ups and then run for two miles on the track.
After a month, students were given a post-test.
“All students improved or maintained their fitness level,” Helget said.
This was a way for the students who were training for the year-end triathlon to experience brick workouts, in which three different activities are incorporated into their workout.
For all of the students in the race, Tuesday was their first experience with a triathlon.
The race began at the Cokato pool, where students swam 400 yards (.25 miles) and were cheered on by Cokato Elementary students.
“That was really cool I know my kids really appreciated that,” Helget said, adding that it gave them extra encouragement and support.
From there, they hopped on their bikes and road to Highway 12, where they hooked up to the bike path. They biked for a total of 20 miles, to Spring Lake Park on the north side of Dassel and then back east to Veterans Memorial Park (Brooks Lake) in Cokato, finishing at the track for a 10k or 6.2 mile-run.
The weather definitely was a factor in the race, making race it much more difficult when it started pouring rain during the bike portion.
“It just made it part of the experience,” Helget commented, adding that the students “toughed it out.”
“That can happen,” during a triathlon, Helget said. “You have to deal with the elements.”
“They ended the race wet, muddy, and dirty, but they were happy . . . they were still really fired up,” Helget commented.
Prior to the triathlon, students formed teams of four those who would be there to support them during the race, whether it be with cheers on the sidelines by providing water when thirsty, or biking or Rollerblading next to them for encouragement.
“A lot of parents came out and watched their child,” Helget said. “I think that’s really neat.”
Aside from the weather, Helget the experience found it to be very successful for its first year, due in large part to a good number of volunteers, such as Lori Chvojicek and Beth Carlson, who took pictures.
Helget, who also participates in marathons and triathlons, hoped this class, at the least, gave students a taste of what the competition is like.
“Now they can say ‘I did this,’” Helget said, adding that maybe it will lead students to compete in another triathlon in the future. He also hopes interest in the class will grow when it is offered again in the 2014-15 school year.
DCHS Junior Robert Uldrych participated and he is planning on racing in a half-marathon this summer.
Though he admitted he’s not the best swimmer, Uldrych said he was able to make up for the time he lost in the pool on the bike path.
Student Michael Chvojicek went into it not really knowing what to expect, he said, adding that he became really tired and, after nine miles of biking, he couldn’t feel his legs anymore.
“I was unsure for the first third of the triathlon, but ended up liking it at the end,” he said.
Sophomore Lexie Grangroth said she thought it was challenging, but a lot of fun.
Junior Courtney Krueger agreed, adding that she enjoyed having the support from the friends she had with her.
For Ellen Slagle, a junior, it was very emotional, especially when she reached the finish, to find everyone there greeting her.
Interested in a triathlon?
There are a number of triathlons planned in the area, including Annandale and Buffalo, Helget said, for those who may be interested.
He also suggested visiting the website, www.pickleevents.com, for races across the state.