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Thursday, June 27, 2019

Local Coach Celebrates St. Xavier High School’s Triathlon National Championship

By Christian Meininger

On Friday, April 5th, St. Xavier’s triathlon team won the USA Triathlon High School National Championship in Tempe, Arizona. The “TriBombers” finished first in the Independent Club (individual high school) category and, as 2019 was the first year this category has been in competition, the team is the first-ever independent high school champion. The team also finished third in the Male Club category, impressive in that St. X competed against regional teams in this category.

National Champs! Seated: Colin Riley, Ted Lockett, Caleb Schmidt, Liam Dwyer, Coach Jim Murphy; Standing: Christian Wall, Ed Baier, Christopher Langenderfer, Alex Baier, Nate Baier, Sam Hinnenkamp, Sam Beutel, Rachel Langenderfer
Coach Jim Murphy of Mt. Lookout explained an exploratory meeting was first held in late 2016.  Interest was shown at the first meeting, as eight students attended. From there, Murphy organized a committee, where he and the St. X administration worked to understand “logistical challenges, insurance,” and how to make a program feasible. Now, he said, “We have a pretty good model.”
Murphy said Tim Banker - director of student activities, both academic and athletic, at St. X - deserves significant credit. “It’s not just me,” Murphy said. He credited the school, parents, and alumni for their contributions. St. X also is supported by Cincinnati-area triathletes, some of whom are St. X alums. Cincinnati’s triathlon club is led by St. X alums.

Rachel Langenderfer was an original organizer, is a parent to senior co-captain Christopher Langenderfer, and is a triathlete. Murphy said Langenderfer has been “very influential in our success every step of the way.” She became involved after her son attended the team’s first meeting and said the involvement of coaches and parents has “become a pretty well oiled machine.”

Team photo - Alex Baier, Liam Dwyer, Christopher Langenderfer, Christian Wall, San Hinnenkamp, Ted Lockett, Nate Baier, Caleb Schmidt, Sam Beutel
Senior co-caption Christian Wall became involved with the team in 2016. He said the group has “grown a lot as a team,” and that the national championship race in Arizona was “an incredible experience.” He spoke about a “crowded” swim, a bike race that included “amazing scenery through the mountains in Arizona,” and the support of parents and alumni seeing the team through to the finish line. Wall plans to continue to pursue triathlon at the University of Cincinnati.

“It won’t be me forever,” Murphy said about his role in the program. He explained he hopes alumni will come back to help with the program, to “pay it forward. That is how any program gets started,” he said.

Pre-race cheer
The triathlon schedule begins in early June and runs through mid-September. Murphy said the team hopes to compete at “every race we can,” but students typically do not compete in every event on the calendar. They  are encouraged to “pick your races. It is a camaraderie thing,” Murphy said, so the team hopes to have a solid group at each event. Eight to ten events are on the schedule. The team desires full participation at nationals and at the state championship in Columbus.

“It’s all very new,” Murphy said of triathlon competition at the high school level. This is the fourth year of nationals held in Tempe. “It’s an evolution, for sure,” Murphy said. “This is an emerging sport,” he added.

Triathlon competition is an emerging sport for women at the NCAA level. On the male side, development is slower because colleges look to lower costs for male sports programs due to Title IX. Murphy explained, however, that scholarships may be available at colleges in the near future. He said he recently spoke with a college administrator with funding who was looking for programs where it might be applied. The national collegiate club championship is competitive. On the Olympic level, the United States women are dominant in triathlon. On the men’s side, Spain carries the mantle.

Senior Sam Hinnenkamp races to the finish line.
Almost all the students on the TriBombers compete in other sports. “At a big high school, it’s easy to get lost,” Murphy said, adding that encouragement has been key to the team’s success. The program was developed with the idea that it might provide “opportunities for kids to engage.”

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