First-year triathlete qualifies for national race

EMU’s first-ever triathlon season got an extension on Saturday, as senior Abigail Shelly (Collinsville, Miss./West Lauderdale) earned a trip to Nationals.

Shelly finished eighth in the East Regional Qualifier at Smith Mountain Lake State Park, and will head to the USA Triathlon-sanctioned national race of the Lake Pleasant Olympic & Sprint Triathlon on Nov. 3 in Peoria, Arizona.

She came out of the water 12th and held her own in the bike before running a 21:23 5k, which was the seventh best among the D-III participants. Shelly finished in 1:12:10.

Emma Hoover (New Carlisle, Ohio/Tecumseh) continued her season-long improvement in the swim leg before making a move up in the run. She ran a 22:39 5k to move up to 17th in the standings.

Leah Lapp (Lowville, N.Y./Beaver River Central) had her best bike of the season for the Eastern Mennonite University women, while Lydia Chappell Deckert (North Newton, Kan./Newton) and Mim Beck (Woodstock, Vt./Archbold) each had their best run.

East Regional Qualifier
Top Finisher:
 Abigail Shelly – 8th of 44 (1:12:10)
Full Team: Emma Hoover – 17th (1:16:38); Leah Lapp – 30th (1:23:11); Lydia Chappell Deckert – 32nd (1:24:08); Mim Beck – 44th (1:34:16)

Coach Bob Hepler said:
EMU Triathlon participated in the NCAA Regional Championship today and they saved their best race for last! But wait! Abigail Shelly stormed into the top ten with a blazing run leg to claim a spot at Nationals!  What an amazing accomplishment for a first year triathlete who happens to be EMU’s premier cross country runner.

Emma Hoover and Leah Lapp also had their best races of the year. Emma has an amazing story. Six months ago, she was totally new to competitive swimming and biking. She has turned into a respectable swimmer and a very strong rider. She also had one of the top runs of the day to finish in the top twenty. Leah’s incredible improvement on the bike led to by far her best race of the year. Lydia Chappell Deckert and Mim Beck capped their first season of triathlon with their best run legs of the year.

It’s been a wonderful first year. Coaches Joanna Friesen and Chad Gusler put in many hours simply because they wanted to see the program start strong.  They are great coaches and selfless people.  Now it’s on to Nationals for Abigail!

Five women committed to the first season of EMU Triathlon and overcame many obstacles. The challenges of training for three sports while maintaining tough academic schedules was truly overwhelming for all five athletes. They will always be loved and appreciated by future teams for all of the sacrifices they made.

Discussion on “First-year triathlete qualifies for national race

  1. Way to go ladies!! I am wondering if there will also be a men’s team in the future? I have a possible future EMU student who is very interested!!

    1. Here’s an answer to your question from Head Coach Bob Hepler:
      Thanks for your inquiry. Women’s Triathlon is a new sport for the NCAA and they do not yet sponsor men’s triathlon. The EMU women’s triathlon program is funded by a grant from USA Triathlon, the governing body of the sport. USA Triathlon does sponsor CLUB men’s and women’s triathlon at the university level. I am working with a group of male EMU students to start a club, which would offer practice and competition opportunities. I’d encourage the prospective student to learn more about EMU and stay in touch with me as his college search continues for updates on how both the club and NCAA is progressing with men’s triathlon. –Bob,

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