April 20, 2017
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He’s the top ranked triathlete for his age in the nation. He’s won nine consecutive national championships in his age group over the last two years, an unprecedented accomplishment. At his peak, he swims over 16 miles, bikes 115 miles and runs 20 miles per week. He’s an ambassador for the bike company Factor and has a list of other sponsors. But triathlete and sophomore Zachary “Zach” Wilson said his career is only getting started. To see how he got to this point, the story goes back to the fall of 2013.
The Start Line
Scott and Kate Wilson, parents of both Zach and senior McKenzi “Kenzi” Wilson, knew it was time to find a triathlon team for their kids. Zach, who started racing when he was 8, was about to turn 13 and join a new age group which spanned from 13 to 16 years olds and was nationally competitive. This made it even more important to find a team and coach who would help Zach and his sister, Kenzi, improve.
However, they faced a problem: there was no triathlon team near central Indiana. According to Mr. Wilson, many of the teams they looked at only focused on adults and not teenagers.
Mr. Wilson said, “We weren’t having any luck finding a program, and it was a troubling process to go around Indiana and keep on talking until you find something.”
That is when Mr. and Mrs. Wilson decided to create a temporary team, later naming it “Elite Multisport.”
“We thought the team wouldn’t last long,” Mr. Wilson said. “But then kids started to reach out to us and asked to join, and we thought, ‘Wow, there really is a need for a team.’”
Before Elite Multisport was created, the Wilson family compete din triathlons around Indiana, often placing in the top spots for their age.
“Zach and Kenzi were around 8 to 9 years old when they did their first triathlon, and their interest in triathlons was really driven by the Carmel Swim Club triathlon in the spring as they both really enjoyed it. From 10 to 13, they dabbled in and out of triathlons,” Mr Wilson said. “When Zach turned 13, he moved up to the next age group for 13 to 16-year-old kids. At this age, competitions nationwide become a lot more competitive and intensive, which is why it’s important for athletes to have a ‘team’ to join.”
Once Elite Multisport was founded, the number of triathletes grew rapidly.
Mr. Wilson said, “We never knew how much of an effect Elite Multisport would have on kids in the general area. At first it was for Zach and Kenzi and a few other kids, but once people started to contact us, we knew we had something big.”
During the first couple of years of Elite Multisport, the Wilsons experienced a plethora of success and growth, especially on the men’s side.
To start off, Mr. and Mrs. Wilson became licensed for youth junior training and high performance training.
“This gave the proper training and certification to now allow us to train our athletes and be their coaches,” Mr. Wilson said.
Another big development in the team was the growth in members. According to Zach, the team went from around 10 athletes in 2014 to 40 in 2016.
On the competition side of triathlons, the team has had a tremendous amount of success. They have been labeled a high performance team every year, along with a gold standard for the last two years.
Not only have they been recognized as an elite team, but they also rank as one of the best in the nation. Although they have a lot of talent, the data shows that they are one of the better teams due to the small size of the team compared to others around the nation, which have up to 10 times as many athletes.
On the elite youth boy’s side, the team has won many accolades, most notably at the 2016 Hy-Vee National Championship. At the event, the boy’s team swept the podium with athletes placing in the top three spots. Triathlete and sophomore Thomas Gastineau, who joined Elite Multisport in 2014, finished third, and was accompanied by Drew Shellenberger, a sophomore at Perry Meridian High School, who placed second. In first came Zach, who, albeit under the weather, finished his youth career on top.
For the last two years, Zach has experienced a continued streak of dominance in his age group, consisting of 13 to 16-year-olds. He stood highest on the podium for two years in a row at the Hy-Vee National Championship, the Flatland Draft Legal Cup, the Richmond Draft Legal Cup and the Pleasant Prairie Draft Legal Cup. These alone are his first place finishes; he has also had a countless number of top 10 finishes in his career.
According to Mr. Wilson, the team had also experienced success on the junior elite men’s side. Chase McQueen, who lives in Columbus and joined the team due to their reputation, was on the world team for his age group last year and this year finished first in the world, along with a second national championship.
These few examples demonstrate Elite Multisport’s recent success, along with the growth of athletes participating in triathlons. “Elite Multisport has really influenced the surrounding community by exposing elite athletes of similar ages to explore and attempt to excel at new sports,” Zach said. “We obviously don’t know the future, but the amount of growth the team has had clearly indicates that people recognize our hard work.”
In the spring of 2017, Elite Multisport and its coaches will say goodbye to three junior elite women athletes; at the same time, the top triathlon college in the country will welcome their team’s future.
Women’s triathlon became an NCAA-approved sport in 2014, allowing women for the first time to compete in triathlons at a collegiate level. Since then, Arizona State University has proven itself as one of the top teams by winning the national championship in the 2015-16 season.
On the Arizona State team, the college offers full rides to eight athletes, meaning plenty of competition exists for those few spots. Elite Multisport will have three athletes, including Kenzi, on the eight woman roster next season.
Kenzi said, “We are really lucky to be committed to a school that’s dedicated to having-cutting edge technology and ranked as the most innovative school in America. They hire elite athletes and coaches to make sure their students excel and compete with the best around the world.”
According to Kenzi, this upcoming season is important to not only her, but her teammate Jillian Cridge, who is a freshman at Cathedral, as they both suffered injuries the previous season. Before the injury, Kenzi was a top five athlete in her age group, but now, she faces an uphill battle to reach top form.
“Learning my body once again and getting back into form is a long process,” Kenzi said.
Cridge also faces a similar battle. As the youth girls national champion before the injury, she was the best in her age group. Mr. Wilson said, “Gillian wasn’t on the team last year due to injury, but this year she will join us again and we really think she will do well.”
On the men’s side, Elite Multisport has much to be excited about. With Zach, Gastineau and Shellenberger, all moving up to the next age group, they will be able to compete internationally.
“This season we will really get to compare ourselves against the best of the best. Before we only competed against athletes in the U.S., but this will be a lot different now. This is a new level of competition so we need to train even harder and always be at our best,” Zach said.
As a team, Elite Multisport has already surpassed all expectations, and this year, they will keep on growing and getting better.
According to Mr. Wilson, only 20 of the 40 athletes are from Indiana. “People come to us because they see our success, they see our training methods, they see we are a big family,” Mr. Wilson said.
For athletes outside of Indiana, the team coaches send training regimes and communicate to athletes via Skype and FaceTime. However, in the summer, all athletes join the team as they go around the country training in different national parks and competing at different locations.
The team also plans to host a few triathlons in the spring of 2017 to expose triathlons to the surrounding Carmel youth community.
“Carmel does a great job of involving kids in sports at a young age and a lot of those kids are proficient at both swimming and running. The triathlons we host will first be a fun competition for kids, and second, will hopefully draw kids into triathlons and have them join.
For the last three years, Elite Multisport has undergone drastic changes. From the creation of the team to winning multiple national championships and being recognized as an elite team to now, having athletes participate in international events. Their success is unprecedented in the sport, and the team looks to expand even more, always performing at the top.
Zach said, “When I stood on the podium, exhausted after running a race dehydrated, I knew that this victory went way beyond me. It was for my coaches, Kenzi, Thomas, the rest of my teammates and everyone who helped me get here. The victory was a culmination of our hard work and dedication. I think that sweep was just an example of what we can accomplish. With hard work, I know we had repeat this type of success at even larger events, and possibly the Olympics.”