Club Highlight: Cal Poly Triathlon

Mason Johnson is a Cal Poly Tri alumni and former GH Sports employee. These are some reflections of his time spent on the team.

What it means to be on the team

The sport of triathlon demands commitment. Training simultaneously for swimming, biking, and running mandates a constant level of involvement with each sport. Pushing yourself to the limit when racing requires many hours of preparation, building your cardiovascular engine, and dialing in nutrition and pacing. This makes the sport exceptionally challenging for college students, many of whom are frequently time-starved due to academic, social, and extracurricular obligations. What unites members of the Cal Poly Triathlon Team is a shared love of and respect for physical suffering. The team enables students from majors across the university to create lifelong memories as they explore the multisport mecca of San Luis Obispo. From open-water swimming at Avila Beach, to biking down Highway 41, to running the Bluff Trail at Montaña de Oro, members are exposed to some of the greatest treasures that the California Central Coast has to offer. During the competition season, athletes are given the opportunity to face off against other schools in the conference including Cal Berkeley, UCSB, and UCSD before they host the conference championship March Triathlon Series held annually at Lopez Lake. There’s a broad spectrum of members ranging from retired high school single-sport athletes to dedicated triathletes with elite aspirations, but everyone is invited to join regardless of their background.

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Why I joined

Having swam competitively for a decade prior to school, I knew that collegiate athletics was something I wanted to pursue. I also had experience road biking and running before joining the team, but one of the main contributors that led me to stay was the welcoming atmosphere that encouraged people with no experience in any of the three sports to learn and grow as athletes. While high-level performances are undeniably something that many members of the team are pursuing, we can sometimes lose sight of why we started the sport in the first place, and that is something I am frequently reminded of when seeing how excited new members are about practice. Another distinguishing feature of the team is its mission to make the sport of triathlon as accessible and affordable as possible, which is critical to foster a lifelong relationship with the sport from a young age.

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Holding an Officer Position

Leadership has been an invaluable component of my experience on the Cal Poly Triathlon Team. Clubs encourage student involvement in officer positions, and for our team this takes the form of a smaller governing officer core in addition to a larger officer core that directs practices and hosts races. I served as the Head Swim Coach my sophomore year before transitioning to the Student Head Coach my junior year. This year, I have taken a step away from direct training plan and workout development in favor of holding the Vice Presidential role, which has allowed me to take on a more involved role in mentoring and team dynamics. The Triathlon team is unique in its encouragement of a primarily student-driven experience, with little guidance from outside individuals. Excluding the overall training plan guidance received from our professional coach, the practices, team events, finances, and more are under the direct supervision and guidance of athletes on the team. This facilitates social and interpersonal growth for officers on the team as they learn to communicate directly with new members and individuals in the community.

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Notes on Nationals 

This April, our team took 16 athletes and our coach to Lake Lanier, Georgia to compete in Collegiate Triathlon Nationals. In addition to the Olympic distance individual races that we all performed, Cal Poly fielded 2 men and 2 women each in the draft legal races, as well as 2 men and 2 women in the mixed team relay format. The opportunities to compete in races outside of the standard individual format made the whole experience much more unifying and greatly enhanced the team atmosphere. Additionally, the mixed team relay format was something we are not usually able to do in the normal season, and consists of each member doing a super sprint triathlon (300m swim, 5k bike, 1200m run) alternating male/female. Overall nationals was the pinnacle of my CP Tri experience as our team continued our tradition of being competitive at the national level.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by: Mason Johnson

Cal Poly Tri Team Member 2018-2022

Cal Poly Tri Team VP 2021-2022

Cal Poly tri Team Student Head Coach 2020-2021

Cal Poly Tri Team Head Swim Coach 2019-2020

Nationals Competitor 2021, 2022

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