Kansas student travels across the country to compete in triathlons

By Braden Shaw and Brooke Wiebe

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As he crosses the finish line, body drenched with sweat and completely exhausted. Senior Callahan Eckardt just finished a 1-mile swim, 24-mile bike ride and a 10K run: a triathlon.

As he approaches the transition area of the Omaha, Neb., triathlon this past July, Eckardt prepares to dismount his bike and throw on his running shoes.

Photo contributed by Callahan Eckardt
As he approaches the transition area of the Omaha, Neb., triathlon this past July, Eckardt prepares to dismount his bike and throw on his running shoes.

Callahan was inspired to do triathlons by a cyclo-cross race, which is an off-road bike race that also involves other obstacles. He was only 12, and his confidence to compete came from his overall athleticism from running, biking, and swimming.

A triathlon is not a typical race, and takes rigorous training to be in race-shape. Callahan has strengthened his body to be physically prepared for the task at hand by participating in multiple athletics.

“I like to train year-round; I do cross country and swimming,” Callahan said. “In the springtime, that’s when I start getting back on the bike and doing bike workouts.”

Senior Callahan Eckardt competes in the swimming portion of the Triathlon in Beach Bash in Jackson County, Mo.

Photo contributed by Callahan Eckardt
Senior Callahan Eckardt competes in the swimming portion of the Triathlon in Beach Bash in Jackson County, Mo.

During a race, Callahan has had his troubles in between stages of a triathlon.

“The hardest part of transition is from the bike to the run,” Callahan said. “If you don’t spin your legs off right, you get noodle legs and it gets so hard to run. Your legs feel funny because different muscles are used.”

The support of his family has also helped Callahan to continue competing.

“I’ve had at least two family members at every race,” Callahan said. “My parents have put a lot of money towards letting me do this because a bike is not cheap, entry fees are not cheap and also traveling.”

Callahan’s sister, freshman Gracie Eckardt, has been inspired by her older brother’s athletic feats, and aspires to be like him.

“He’s just so dedicated and I want to be dedicated to something like that when I get older,” Gracie said. “To be the best I can be and I look up to him for that.”

After finishing the biking portion of the Topeka Tin Man Triathlon this June, Eckardt begins the last leg of the race, a 7-mile run.

Photo contributed by Callahan Eckardt
After finishing the biking portion of the Topeka Tin Man Triathlon this June, Eckardt begins the last leg of the race, a 7-mile run.

Getting involved in this sport can bring an athlete to many different places, as Callahan has traveled to Omaha, Arkansas, as well as the Kansas City area, and even to nationals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which was an experience he will never forget.

“[Nationals] is by far the biggest race I’ve ever been in,” Callahan said. “I got 39th in my age group, and I want to say there were about 80 in my [age] group. Eighty of us, plus another hundred of the 21-24 year old guys and we are the fastest in the nation. This year it was around 4,000 people. It was insane.”

Callahan believes his passion will never die out for the thrill of competition, and his goals to continue competing drive him forward.

“I plan on doing this until I can’t ride a bike, swim or walk,” Callahan said. “Long term I would eventually work my way up to doing an Iron Man, possibly go to world championships if I qualify. But racing the clock, that’s my biggest goal, to go faster than I did last year.”

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