The 40th Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, took place Oct. 13. When I heard that this year’s youngest competitor in the iconic triathlon, 20-year-old Wolfgang “Wolfie” Drake, is also a Towson native, I reached out to see if I could feature him in this column. His reply began, “Good afternoon, Ma’am, I’ve always loved The Towson Times, and my mom would get a real kick out of it,” which totally made my day!
Drake grew up in Rodgers Forge and Stoneleigh. He attended Rodgers Forge Elementary, Dumbarton Middle and Gilman. His mother, Beth Drake, teaches biology at Towson High, and I do hope she gets a kick out of this!
Now a cadet at West Point, Drake is in his junior year, majoring in Chinese. He holds dear the hometown that he says gave him a strong foundation for competing in triathlons. Swimming for the Stoneleigh Sharks, running around Towson neighborhoods and in local races and competing in cross country, track, and swimming at Gilman, he was surrounded by active people.
His triathlon opportunities expanded in college, thanks to a terrific team at West Point. “We have a great coach, fantastic officer-in-charge and are provided with all the gear we need,” Drake said.
The road to Kona is a challenging journey for all competitors, and Drake had some setbacks, even at his young age.
“At West Point, I spent a semester on the obstacle course racing team before making the triathlon team,” Drake said. “In my plebe [freshman] year, I broke my hip after a bike crash during a spring break training ride. That really shook my conviction to stay at West Point and keep doing triathlons, but I’m glad I kept at it. The day-to-day struggle can really grind you down, with the parades, room inspections, course load, and military training. Luckily, the triathlon team has kept me sane through most of it.”
Drake was grateful for the chance to compete in Kona, and as the youngest athlete among an impressive field of elite triathletes gathered from around the world, he was excited to be able to learn from leaders in the sport. He is also thankful for the support of those who helped him train for that starting line.
“I may have been the person riding the bike or swimming in the pool, but I’ve had my coach, teammates, parents, roommates, company-mates, friends and family by my side the whole time,” he said.
Not all who toe the start are destined to reach that legendary finish line, but Drake made sure to cross it. He completed the 140.6 miles (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run) and secured his Ironman status in 13:02:17.
This dedicated young Ironman is surely going places. And one of those places will always be Towson.
“The more I come back home, the more I realize how lucky I was to grow up in Towson,” Drake said. “It's just a great place to call home.”
Also, he added, “As always: Go Army, beat Navy.”