GRAND RAPIDS CHARTER TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Calvin University's triathlon team made its debut early Saturday morning during the annual Rhoades McKee Reeds Lake Triathlon.

The seven-member, all-female team marks the first-recognized NCAA triathlon team in Michigan. It formed in 2018, picking up undiscovered athletes already on Calvin's campus and two freshman recruits.

"Kelly Makela is a former swimmer, so she swam the 400 and 800 here for Calvin her freshman year. Megan Schenkel, she used to run cross country, so she’s a great runner. I’m not looking for an experienced triathlete, I’m looking for people who are dedicated and passionate about fitness and finding a lifetime sport," head coach, Kattie Carpenter, explained.

The team consists of four juniors: 

  • Claire Costello (Fort Wayne, Ind./Homestead)
  • Kelly Makela (Boise, Id./Boise)
  • Stephany Morrow (Eagle Lake, Mn./Mankato East) 
  • Megan Schenkel (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian
  • One sophomore: Talia Chen (Ada, Mich./Forest Hills Central)
  • Two freshman: Paige Brodeur (St. Charles, Il./St. Charles East) and Libby Vermeulen (Birmingham, Mich./Detroit Country Day).

Saturday's triathlon was open to the public, but a separate, collegiate wave was created for Calvin to test the waters against Millikin University's team from Decatur, Illinois. 

The route consisted of a 750 meter swim, 20K bike and 5K run.

"The distance we do at the collegiate level is half an Olympic distance, so it’s considered a sprint," Carpenter said.

Schenkel was the first to finish on Calvin's team, and said she was proud of her teammates for their drive, noting that many of them had never completed a triathlon before.

"A lot of them, it's their first race, so I think it's a pretty cool experience to see them putting in the work and finishing strong," she said.

Schenkel and her team underwent quick and heavy training to gear up for Saturday's race. Carpenter said the team had been practicing twice a day for two weeks.

"Our training has been super condensed, typically a triathlete will take eight to 16 weeks to prepare for a race. We’ve had two," she explained.

During training the team would focus on cycling and mobility. 

"We want to hit every level, every pain threshold that you might experience come race day so it’s not a surprise when you get there," Assistant Coach Jimi Minnema said.

Calvin's coaching staff said this is a growing year for the team. The Knights will be competing again at Trine on Saturday, Sept. 14 and are preparing for regionals in October.

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