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Months of grueling training have all built up to this moment, when hearts race and adrenaline pumps. The horn suddenly goes off. After swimming 1.5 kilometers and biking 40 more, competitors finish by running 10 more. This is exactly what the members of the Cal Poly triathlon club team do.

The student-run club is the largest on campus, with around 124 members.

Marcie Palla, a public policy senior who holds the positions of social chair, videographer and bike coach, said an extreme personality is needed to really participate in the sport. “You put everything you have to go all the way in anything you do, whether it be racing, working out or having fun with your friends,” she said. “No one on our team really does anything half-way.”

The team’s official practices start in November to allow for adequate time to prepare for the two main races of the season, nationals and Wildflower.

“We have months of intense workouts where we build up a big base and then two months of building off that base,” said business administration senior and club president Amy Sonneberg. “It goes from long workouts to much shorter workouts, with a higher intensity.”

No experience is needed to join the club, which welcomes new members all year.

“I came into the sport knowing only one discipline and they taught me the other two,” Sonneberg said.

Each week there are nine workouts that are gauged to meet a variety of athletic abilities.

“We have student coaches at each practice and they design a green workout and a gold workout, green being more for beginners and gold for more advanced athletes,” Palla said. “It’s a really customized fit.”

At this year’s nationals on April 19 in Tuscaloosa, Ala., the team placed 16th, which was “OK,” according to biomedical engineering senior and public relations officer Phil Chang.

The club won the team collegiate competition May 4 at the Avia Wildflower Triathlons held at Lake San Antonio.

Cal Poly’s top three men were Evan Rudd (in second, at 2 hours, 9 minutes), Chris Jackson (in fifth, at 2:12) and Jeff Thompson (in 13th, at 2:19).

Its top three women were Patricia Laverty (in fifth, at 2:33), Shana Strange (in seventh, at 2:38) and Hannah Tillman (in 10th, at 2:41).

Not only does the triathlon team compete in away races, but it also holds its own, including the March Triathlon Series held at Lopez Lake, and the Chains of Love fun run held on campus.

Chang said more than 530 racers attended the March Triathlon Series.

“It was our biggest race that we’ve had, and we’re expecting it to grow continually from year to year,” he said.

The money earned by the team’s two events helps to fund the racers so they are able to go to nationals and subsidizes the Wildflower trip.

What really sets the triathlon team apart is its “club-sport mentality,” Chang said.

“It’s not about being hardcore and just working out and not socializing,” he explained. “It’s about having fun.”

The club is more about getting new people into the sport so upon graduating, they will continue in the sport for years, he added.

The team holds weekly meetings on Thursdays, during University Union hour (11 a.m. to noon) in Building 53 room 215.

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