‘Persist’: Digital media students produce documentary on first triathlon team

This is the story of five student-athletes who, amidst nursing clinicals, cross-country practices, late nights with friends and early mornings of exams, became Eastern Mennonite University’s first women’s triathlon team. Their story is told in the student-produced documentary film Persist.

Follow the team as they pound mile after mile on foot, bicycle, and in the water. The film was shot and produced by students in Professor Jerry Holsopple’s video production class at races, on the track, and in the pool.

Watch the trailer:

Women’s triathlon is labeled a “emerging sport” within the NCAA, so all events and championships include teams from Division I-III. This means the team regularly competed against much larger schools in their four-event season, culminating in an October qualifier for the national championships. Senior Abigail Shelly ended her season with a 13th-place finish in Tempe, Arizona. 

From pre-competition jitters to simply mastering the many skills of three different sports, the film showcases how individual courage and dedication inspired the entire team. Senior Emma Hoover particularly struggled to learn how to swim competitively.

In the documentary, Hoover recalls, “we get to the point where we’re starting our swim warm-ups, and there’s this moment, where Abigail will look at everybody, and Abigail goes, ‘okay, no more negative thoughts.’ And she did it every single race. And I just felt like, ‘okay … now is the time to just let it all go, this is what it is. It’s time to work.’”

The team included Hoover, a history, social science and education major; Shelly, an education and liberal arts major; Mim Beck, a nursing major, Lydia Chappell Deckert, an English major; and Leah Lapp, a biology and chemistry double-major.

The team is coached by Bob Hepler, with assistants Joanna Friesen and Chad Gusler

The video production crew is Keith Bell, Mykenzie Davis, Ethan Green, Jared Oyer, and Anthony Parker.

Watch the full cut.