Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

More than a sport, in so many ways

The difficulty of collegiate triathlon leads to unique bonds for members of the BHSU’s team
Brianna Amaral
Members of the triathlon team

Triathlon is a sport that incorporates running, biking and swimming, with each segment uniquely pushing the athletes both physically and mentally. The Black Hills State University triathlon team has managed to meet these challenges, demonstrating event after event time that its bond is stronger than the obstacles it faces while competing.  

Triathlon is unique –– not only in its multisport nature –– but also in its relative novelty in NCAA athletics. The NCAA first introduced the sport nearly 10 years ago and BHSU was one of the first colleges to adopt it. 

“Triathlon started in 2014, the year that actually triathlon became an original sport in the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association),” Connie Feist, the BHSU triathlon head coach said. “Black Hills State was one of the first schools to bring it on and we received a grant from USA Triathlon.”

Recruiting for this sport is also uniquely complicated compared to other sports, as there are several distinct qualities an athlete has to possess. 

“The magic combination [in recruiting athletes] is a swimmer-runner which is not typical of most high school athletes,” Feist said. “But if they were a dual sport athlete in high school then they are easy to turn into triathletes.”

With such a distinct sport, the athletes at BHSU have intriguing backgrounds that ultimately led them to join the team. One such athlete is junior Cassidy Teeslink. 

“I have been mountain biking my entire life and that is how I got into triathlon,” Teeslink said. 

In addition to her experience mountain biking, she also competed in cross country throughout middle and high school. Teeslink’s inspiration for trying out for the BHSU triathlon team, however, was her sister, who is now a BHSU triathlon alumna. 

“When she was on the BHSU triathlon team I would travel and watch her compete,” Teeslink said. “Watching her compete made me want to do it too.” 

While her sister was her initial inspiration, her teammates are what keep Teeslink motivated and provide the support for her to continue competing in such a demanding sport. 

“The team I feel like is the thing that keeps me going,” Teeslink said. “If you have a hard day at practice, my friends are experiencing the exact same thing.” 

This passion Teeslink has for the team is also reflected in other BHSU triathlon athletes as they too love the sport and the team. Lily Brophy, a sophomore at BHSU has been competing in triathlon for almost her entire life. 

“I have been doing triathlon since I was eight years old,” Brophy said. 

She discovered the sport through competitive swimming, however. 

“I was on the swim team when I was little and when I was waiting for my parents to pick me up for practice, I saw a pamphlet for a local triathlon and asked my parents if I could do it,” Brophy said. “After I did that, I liked it and joined a club team in Des Moines, Iowa, and started racing for them nationally.” 

Brophy’s love for the sport influenced her to reach out to the BHSU team. 

“I was ahead of the game, and I reached out to most of the coaches right when I was able to,” Brophy said.

While the location in Spearfish influenced Brophy’s decision to choose BHSU as her college, it was also the team dynamic that stood out to her. 

“I really liked the coach and the girls on the team,” Brophy said. “We are all really close and we all get along with no issues.”

This team’s bond keeps each triathlete motivated, especially during the team’s demanding practices. Brophy mentions that it is this aspect of the sport she loves even more than the events. 

“Honestly my favorite part is when we’re done with the workout you think in your head, ‘wow that was hard,’ but it really wasn’t because you have your whole team with you,” Brophy said. 

Even during the races, however, the teammates rely on each other for positive encouragement to finish the race.

“My teammate, Sydney [], is faster than me on the run and I am faster than her on the bike,” Teeslink said. “So, if I pass her on the draft pack I yell, ‘hey I know you can do it.’ And it is the same for her on the run.”

The triathlon team faces a demanding practice schedule, which entails 20 hours of practice each week, not including personal work outs, and the races are just as intense. With such a toll on the body, mental fortitude is important to push through, and the teammates are there for each other in all aspects of competing. 

“When you do a sport where you’re going absolutely as hard as you can it takes a lot,” said Lilja McKendry, a senior BHSU triathlete. “The race itself is one thing; we train for an hour three times a day. On top of that, everybody is doing 15 to 18 credits, and a lot of us have jobs, and have relationships.”

Due to her experience on the team, McKendry offers leadership to her younger teammates and purposely attempts to keep them grounded mentally.

“When stepping into a leadership position it starts with being the person to step-up and encourage your teammates extra,” McKendry said. “It’s just doing the little things here and there to show that you care for the group.”

Teeslink agrees that leadership from older teammates is key part of advancing as a team.

 “I feel like even if you know you can do something, seeing something or hearing something from an upperclassman makes you feel like you could do it more,” Teeslink said. 

Knowing they are all going through the same difficulties helps the strengthen the team’s bond.

 “The team is really close because we all understand how hard it is to juggle everything,” McKendry said. “And doing all of that while doing arguably one of the hardest sports in the NCAA.”


About the Contributor
Brianna Amaral
Brianna Amaral, Photographer & Reporter