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Nelsen, Struss head of class

Riley Nelsen sprinted toward the finish line Saturday at the Forestview Middle S1 / 2
Emilee Struss won the girls race during the Brainerd High School Triathlon Satur2 / 2

BAXTER — At 7 a.m., Saturday morning, 42 Brainerd High School students began the culminating event of a semesters worth of training.

At the end of the day, it was Riley Nelsen and Emilee Struss who walked, or maybe hobbled away, winners of the annual Brainerd High School Triathlon.

Nelsen, a Junior, who participates in cross-country running, Nordic skiing and track and field finished his first triathlon in 2:41:35.

“My goal was to win,” said Nelsen. “I am a high-caliber endurance athlete so I knew I could complete the triathlon, so what comes next, winning it, and that’s why it was my goal.”

Struss, a senior, who participates in dance, was also competing in her first triathlon and finished in 3:08:02.

“I feel like it was a dream and it never really happened, but I guess the pain shows me I was in it,” said Struss. “It was an awesome accomplishment. I did better than I expected, and it feels great.”

Nelsen’s and Struss’s reasons for taking the BHS Triathlon class and competing in the 1-mile swim, 25-mile bike ride and 6.2-mile run were similar.

“When my mom and I were looking at class options it looked pretty cool, finishing a tri is a life goal for a lot of people, so I thought it would be a cool accomplishment,” said Nelsen. 

Struss added: “I thought it was a really cool thing and my older sister has competed in marathons and triathlons, so I thought it would be a great accomplishment, and I should go for it.”

After completing the first event, the one-mile swim, which took place in the BHS pool, triathletes were greeted to less than ideal conditions. With the temperature somewhere in the low 

40s, accompanied by wind and rain, competitors biked county road 48 and the area around Forestview Middle School in Baxter. The event was then completed with a run in the same area.

“Biking was miserable, the water kicking up on my pedals just soaked my shoes and socks,” said Struss. “After the bike, I stepped on the ground and thought I was going to collapse.”

Said Nelsen: “Being a Nordic skier, I just forgot about the weather and put it aside. It got kind of hard on the bike, but you just muscle through it.”

Both winners placed first in the run. Nelsen with a time of 41:05. Struss with a time of 48:54. Nelsen finished eight minutes ahead of second-place finisher Jake Reichenbach and also finished second on the bike with a time of 48:54.

“The run is my strong point, but my favorite event was the swim,” said Nelsen. “I wasn’t expecting to do as well as I did. Everybody else went out hard, I was five laps behind, but I focused on my technique, I got faster, and even left the pool with a two lap advantage over some.”

Struss’ favorite event was the run.

“When I started running I was feeling good,” she said. “When I got feeling back in my feet, it was go time, and I was just surprised how many people I was passing.”

The same sister who inspired Struss through her own triathlon experiences, surprised her younger sister by flying in from Colorado for the event, and rollerblading along side Struss while she ran.

 “My sister kept telling me stories,” said Struss. “It was like we were having a casual conversation and that made the run so much easier.”

The BHS triathlon is just as much about learning as it is competing and in the end both Nelsen and Struss finished in the winners circle, not only with a sense of accomplishment but with a lesson learned. 

“I learned how to do a triathlon and that you have to be good at every event to win,” said Nelsen. “You can have a strong event, but to win a tri, you have to be decent at everything.”

“The best thing that I learned that in the moment when your training, we set goals that are more like limits,” said Struss. “When you get out and try it, you push past your own limits. It’s just awesome doing something you never thought you would do. I learned not to set limits.”

Individual events 

Boys swim

1-Sam Dellacecca 21:48, 2-Andy Whiteman 26:58 3-Zach Meyer 29:39

Girls swim

1-Grace Larson 25:43, 2-Martina Giger 26:25, 3-Courtney Tusler 28:11

Boys bike

1-Josh Archibald 1:20:19, 2-Riley Nelsen 48:54, 3-Zach Meyer 1:27:48

Girls bike

1-Katy Etterman 1:36:14, 2- Lexi Larson 1:40:09, 3- Alese Waters 1:40:16

Boys run

1-Riley Nelsen 41:05, 2-Jake Reichenbach 49:45, 3-Andy Whiteman 51:20

Girls run

1-Emilee Struss 48:54, 2-Martina Giger 53:15, 3-Alese Waters 58:58



1-Riley Nelsen 2:41:35, 2-Josh Archibald 2:50:36, 3-Andy Whiteman 2:58:36, 4-Zach Meyer 3:01:32, 5-Sam Dellacecca 3:07:14, 6-Jake Reichenbach 3:07:40, 7-Cam Swanson 3:23:37, 8-Taylor Babineau 3:23:37, 9-Weston Devries 3:29:26, 10-Jade Winddjue 3:32:19, 11-Tom Glynn 3:33:03, 12-Austin Palcaro 3:41:10, 13-Kevin Lechner 3:42:50, 14-Max Ostergren 3:51:42, 15-Eric Trunock 3:59:31, 16-Dakota Swenson 4:02:00, 17-Matt Huisman 4:40:09


1-Emily Struss 3:08:02, 2-Martina Giger 3:08:34, 3-Katy Etterman 3:14:09, 4-Alese Waters 3:15:24, 5-Lexi Larson 3:21:25, 6-Gracie Larson 3:22:30, 7-Hailey Joyce 3:23:20, 8-Rachel Howard 3:23:40, 9-Courtney Tusler 3:24:40, 10-Marie Frommelt 3:35:21, 11-Steph Groen 3:38:10, 12-Laura Huss 3:38:40, 13-Tanya Dalquist 3:39:05, 14-Alex Hoehner 3:41:13, 15-Ally Moyer 3:41:31, 16-Becca Gervais 3:46:00, 17-Marlee Landsburg 3:47:43, 18-Kalli Crawford 3:48:25, 19-Rachel Bartosh 3:49:50, 20-Ashley Zelinske 3:52:34, 21-Lilly Anderson 3:53:18, 22-Kari Gordon 3:58:05, 23-Jayda Frazer 3:58;14, 24-Arianna Brown 3:58:22, 25-Madie Eades 4:13:58