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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


TriCat Erica Clevenger wins USA Triathlon Collegiate Club National Championship

Courtesy of Jimmy Song

Erica Clevenger had a few words ringing in her head on the last lap of the USA Triathlon Collegiate Club National Championships.

“This is my house. This is my realm and this is what I’m good at,” Clevenger recalled.

Those words would make the difference as she outpaced her competitor Kelly Kosmo from UCLA to win the women’s Olympic-distance national championship with a time of 2:15:50 in Clemson, South Carolina.

“I knew going into it that I had a shot at the championship and … my goal in the race was to have confidence and believe in myself,” Clevenger said. “It’s easy to doubt yourself, especially starting behind as I usually do because I’m not much of a swimmer. … I had great support from my teammates and I took home the national championship.”

Clevenger first got into the sport as a freshman at the UA. That’s when TriCats first caught her eye.

“It looked like a challenge and I like doing things that other people don’t do,” Clevenger said. “That was part of the reason why I joined and I fell in love with the team. It’s hard not to fall in love with a sport when you have a team like mine.”

The rest of the team couldn’t be more proud of her.

“It’s just really incredible in looking at how hard the team works together and how hard we all push each other,” said TriCats vice president David Kroeppler. “We had somebody else place fourth, so it really just proves how much working together and pushing each other can pay off.”

TriCats is one of the largest clubs at the UA with 70 members in total.

“We just make it as fun as we can, which is what our goal is,” Kroeppler said. “[Clevenger] hadn’t even done triathlons until her freshman year, so we just try to get fun people who are interested in trying new things, working hard and watching it all pay off. We are just looking for new people who are fun and ready for work.”

The sport, however, is grueling and takes its toll on each competitor. For Clevenger, it hit her during her freshman and sophomore years when she was working 20 hours and training 20 hours per week, while simultaneously trying to earn her degree in chemical engineering.

“I’ve been really fortunate and I haven’t had a lot of injuries,” Clevenger said. “I had a crash my sophomore year which was pretty bad. Fortunately, I look at those type of things as something I can learn from, so it didn’t scare me away from the sport.”

She learned to rely on her teammates and coaches at the same time to learn and grow both on and off the course.

“No one has quite the dynamic that we have because we do so well in bringing in new members who are genuinely new to the sport, myself included,” Clevenger said. “Most of us hadn’t done a triathlon until we got to college. We build people up from scratch, which makes a huge difference when it comes to team attitude and dynamic.”

After placing seventh in the USA Triathlon Collegiate Club National Championships last year, Clevenger and teammate Laura Haley both aspired to place in the top five. At the end of the day, both smiled as they accomplished just that.

“It’s unreal, to be honest. My freshman year, I looked up at the podium and I dreamed about being up [there],” Clevenger said. “You are never going to be able to do those things unless you believe in yourself. … It started out as a dream, and I couldn’t do it without my coaches and teammates.”

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