It has become customary that when I cover a triathlon, I make a concentrated effort to interview the winners and report on who won. It's been that way for the past 29 years since the first triathlon was introduced in Columbia in 1984.
However, this time I'm going to deviate from the norm because I feel that the triathlon, 'Celebrating Heroes,' held this past Sunday warrants it. This race is important to me in a personal way because of its focus on the military. As Race Director Keri Ebeling put it, "we have to do more for our military. This event is a shout out to them."
TriColumbia, the organization that runs the triathlons in the area, has gone ahead and recognized our service men and women by issuing an Armed Forces Challenge. This initiative brought a large contingent of the military out to the event, which drew a total of 700 competing athletes from eight states. The winners of the Armed Forces Challenge received $500, which is donated to a charity of their choice.
As difficult as it may be for some to believe, I served in the Army during the period of the Berlin Wall. So I still get a chill being around so many from the military. Just watching a Silver Star Medal winner cross the finish line was a thrill for me.
I also appreciated the opportunity to talk to the people at the "Never Leave a Fallen Comrade" booth and to watch the volunteer work at the finish line of Sergeant First Class Quindle Bennett and his contingent of Fort Meade soldiers.
I am sending a personal shout out to Linda Congedo and Kristin Seabolt of Maroon PR for making the trip to this event so pleasant. Remembering the military is so important and I hate to think what life would be without them.
For the results of the triathlon itself, Chris Nocera from Pittsburgh won the overall male title in a time of 1:15:04. Calah Schlabach of Arlington was the female winner in 1:20:22.
Scholarship consolation prizes
Having had the privilege of sitting on a couple of scholarship/award committees over the years, I feel that I am as qualified as anybody to give some advice to those who may have fallen just short of the prize.
Do not get discouraged. In many instances, students submit page after page of their academic or athletic accomplishments only to learn that they were not among the winners. The lesson to be learned here is to not let one setback become a mental roadblock. Continue to believe in yourself.
You might have to work even harder than you have done in the past. Remember that the competition is often very stiff for the few scholarships/awards offered and the difference between winning and losing is very small. History is filled with stories of individuals who failed early in life and became enormously successful. Michael Jordan was cut from a basketball team in his teen years and he went on to become one of the sport's all-time greats. Some of the second place finishers on American Idol have become wildly successful.
The key, though, is not quitting on yourself.
In past years, I have voted for students whom I thought were the best only to discover that my first choice was somebody's else's last choice. It happens. Life is not always fair. However, never let one setback or even two, or three, prevent you from doing well as you get older. If you believe strongly in yourself and what you are doing, you are already ahead of most of us.