SCARSDALE, N.Y. – After three triathlons, Scarsdale’s Christine Hu can call herself a national champion. It’s not a reach to believe more could be on the way.
Hu, 14, won her age group in the Hy-Vee IronKids Championship last month in Des Moines, Iowa. The race consisted of a 300-yard swim, 8-mile bike ride and 2-mile run. Hu finished in 43:14, 31 seconds ahead of the runner-up. Hu saved the best for last, running the final 2 miles in 13:35. She finished second in her division in the bike and run and third in the swim.
“I really didn’t have any idea what to expect,’’ Hu said from New Hampshire, where she is a student at Phillips Exeter Academy. “I just wanted to improve my times and enjoy myself. I was surprised and I was really happy.”
Hu qualified for the championship by winning her first race, an IronKids qualifier in May. Her only other race was a triathlon in Connecticut in June. She was the only teenager in the field for that race, and she finished 15th.
“It’s pretty phenomenal that she won a national championship,’’ said her coach, Joanne Dondero. “There were five athletes on the podium, and she was the only one that was not affiliated with a club and was competing independently. She’s a gifted athlete.”
Hu started working with Dondero in the spring. The teenager had competitive experience in swimming and running but not cycling. “She didn't know much about it, but her athleticism took her through,’’ Dondero said. "She had been an athlete all her life. Her parents found me online and wanted to put the whole package together.”
Hu said her familiarity with endurance sports spurred her to try triathlons. “I wanted to challenge myself,’’ she said. “I thought it would be cool to try triathlons.”
Now, she has a national championship under her belt, and a bright future ahead. She will compete for Phillips Exeter in cross country, swimming and cycling, which should help her continue to succeed in the sport in 2014.
“What made her great to work with is she’d show up with something new to present me every time,’’ Dondero said. “She’d look things up online and apply them herself. She wasn't clipped in to her bike the first time, and two weeks later she was. I hadn't mentioned it to her yet. I said ‘You've been practicing, haven’t you?’ She picks things up easily, and quickly excelled at them.”