July 30, 2001
WHS grad sets sights on the Olympics
by Deborah Stone
In a few years, perhaps, the world will know who Kelsey Withrow is and what she's capable of achieving. This Woodinville High graduate dreams big, but according to her, that's the only way to dream, especially if one wants to compete in the Olympics.
"I've always set high goals for myself," comments Withrow, "because it's made me keep pushing onward to accomplish all the little ones along the way."
For the past 12 years, she has been swimming competitively on several club teams (Wave Aquatics and Cascade), as well as for WHS.
She helped make WHS number one in district for the relay and a few years back, she assisted in getting the school its top title in state for the same event.
"I have always liked swimming and the feel of pushing through the water, using my whole body," says Withrow. "It makes me feel good."
Recently, Withrow changed to distance swimming from sprint racing because she thinks she is a stronger endurance swimmer than a speed swimmer. Her workouts begin at five in the morning, then she heads to school, and later in the afternoon she resumes practice with a total of five hours a day in the pool.
Last September, a chance meeting with Woodinville triathlete Sara Graham, at Gold Creek Tennis and Sports Club, led Withrow to consider doing triathlons. Graham spotted her running on the treadmill for conditioning and urged her to try spinning classes (stationary cycling sessions). This led to Withrow's interest in cycling and eventually, triathlons. With Graham's encouragement and coaching, Withrow entered several duathlons and a half marathon competition, each time placing first in her age group. In May, she participated in her first triathlon in Olympia and won first place overall for women of all ages, as well as set a course record. Then in the recent World Qualifying Championships at Lake Placid New York, Withrow took first in juniors, with a winning time of two hours, seven minutes and thirty-six seconds, edging out her nearest competitor by two minutes. The event consisted of Olympic distances for the swim (one-mile), bike (26 miles) and run (6.2 miles).
"I was so happy and very shocked that I won," explains Withrow. "It was incredibly exciting for me, especially because I had had a bad transition, wasting four precious minutes, and I was so upset about that, but I just tried to put it behind me and concentrate on making up for lost time."
With this win, Withrow earned herself a junior elite spot on Team USA and went to the World Championships, July 21st, in Edmonton, Alberta. In addition, she has been invited to train at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs this summer and will spend two months working with some of the finest coaches in the country.
"People are amazed that I've only been at this triathlon training since September, but I tell them that I've been a swimmer forever and I used to compete in track and cross country when I was in junior high, so the only new element for me is the cycling," explains Withrow. "The cycling was my weakness, but it's getting better and I feel much stronger due to Sara's great coaching. She's been so inspirational and so positive."
For Withrow, triathlons are much harder than just doing one sport.
She says, "They are mentally and physically demanding because you have to be strong in all three areas in order to really compete at the upper levels and you have to be able to transition your mind and your body from one sport to the other very quickly."
Withrow's training schedule now includes running and cycling three to four times a week, each. She alternates short with long sessions, on both flat and hilly terrain. To ready herself for major competitions, Withrow visualizes the race and how she will make her transitions. She pumps herself up with self-confidence and holds a positive, can-win attitude in her mind.
"The night before Lake Placid I had a dream that I won. I saw myself racing and beating the other competitors," says Withrow. "This made me feel really confident on race day and then, I actually won!" Now Withrow's eye is on qualifying for the 2004 or 2008 Olympics as a triathlete.
Come September, she will head to Michigan to study at Oakland University on a swimming scholarship. She hopes to make health sciences or sports medicine her future career.
"Dreams do come true," comments Withrow. "You just have to believe in yourself."