TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent
I had the pleasure recently to sit down and talk triathlon with TCSD member Jessica Tomasek. Jessica became the first woman to receive an NCAA scholarship for the sport of triathlon when she signed her National Letter of Intent to attend Queens University of Charlotte. Please join me as we get to know this accomplished young woman who is on the rise.
Craig: How did you get your start as a triathlete?
Jessica: My parents were the biggest factor in my initial interest and involvement in triathlon. My dad, Wayne, was, at the time, a part of a military endurance sports team, which was how he got his start in triathlon. My mom, Melissa, followed his lead and got involved in the sport as well. In October 2008, I decided to join in on the fun and completed my first triathlon. My first race was part of the Women’s Triathlon Series San Diego. I competed in the super-sprint family wave with my mom, and swam with my head out of the water for the entire swim! I did the bike portion on a mountain bike, and put running shorts on over my swimsuit for the run. Though I didn’t know much about the ins-and-outs of triathlon, I had a blast doing my first race. As soon as I crossed the finish line, I asked my mom when we could sign up for the next race!
Craig: When did you get involved with TriJuniors and what was that experience like for you?
Jessica: I joined TriJuniors in July 2010. After training on my own for a few years, I really liked the idea of being a part of a team. At the formation of the team, the Youth and Junior Elite draft-legal racing format was really starting to become more competitive. Coach Jim Vance realized that there was a need for a high-performance team in San Diego. Through TriJuniors, I had the opportunity to develop the skills needed for this type of racing.
Craig: Why did Jim re-brand TriJuniors and turn the group into Formula Endurance? What improvements resulted from this change?
Jessica: In the fall of 2013, Coach Vance changed the name of the program to Formula Endurance. The structure of the team is now both a USAT High Performance Team and a USA Swim Club. The reason for this change was to develop our athletes into competitive swimmers, which is necessary for success in draft-legal triathlon. With a larger number of athletes, the level of the team as a whole has increased and has become more competitive.
Craig: Where have you traveled for races?
Jessica: I have traveled to various places around the United States for races such as Junior Elite Cups, USAT Junior and Youth Elite Nationals, and CAMTRI Junior North American Championships. Some of these places include Richmond, Seattle, Ohio, Florida, and Iowa.
Craig: What have been some of your favorite destination races?
Jessica: I have always had an interest in traveling, so getting to explore different parts of the country through competing in different races has made the last few years very exciting. My favorite place that I have traveled to so far is Seattle. I have raced the Junior Elite Cup in Monroe (a city right outside of Seattle) for the past three years, and each race has been very successful. Apart from the enjoyment of doing well in the race, I’ve liked traveling to this race because I can explore more of the interesting culture and beautiful sights that Seattle has to offer!
Craig: What was your experience like last November when you raced the first-ever Women’s Collegiate Triathlon National Championships in Clermont, FL?
Jessica: I went into this race just looking for a good experience, and to get a feel for some of the collegiate triathlon competition. The race started out well, as I came out of the water towards the middle of the field. On lap 1 of 3 of the bike course, I was quickly able to get into the chase pack, and we gained 20 seconds on the lead pack by the end of the 1st lap. Then I took a technical turn too fast, and crashed into a fence. After fixing a few mechanical issues on my bike, I was able to finish the remainder of the race, but I had lost the pack. After the race, as I was addressing my crash injuries in the medical tent, Sonni Dyer came and introduced himself as the triathlon coach of Queens University. Now, at this point in my college search, I had already submitted applications and had my mind set on which university I wanted to attend…or so I thought. After Sonni told us about the new triathlon program at Queens University (in Charlotte,NC, not Queens,NY) the school was a strong contender on my list.
Craig: Why did you select Queens University?
Jessica: At the race in Florida, Coach Dyer saw that I am an athlete who gets back up after I fall. Because of that (and other previous accomplishments in the sport) he offered me a spot on the inaugural triathlon team, which included an athletic scholarship. It was not until I went to visit the school that I realized just how much Queens has to offer. The campus itself has state-of-the-art athletic facilities. As a triathlete I will have a number of coaches, to include multiple swim coaches (the same coaches who just led the swim teams to a national championship win), run and strength coaches, in addition to my triathlon coach, Sonni Dyer. I also really liked the academics at Queens. The small student-to-professor ratio (12-1) will allow me to connect with my peers and professors. When I first met Coach Jeff Dugdale, who is the head swim coach and will be overseeing the triathlon program, he had just been reviewing a spreadsheet of his swimmers’ grades. I was impressed by this and the rest of the coaching staff, and I got a sense that I would be really well taken care of, in addition to being held accountable for my academics. All of this made me feel like I was already a part of the Queens family, and I can’t wait to start this experience!
Craig: Who have been some of the most influential people in your triathlon career?
Jessica: My parents have always been very supportive of my triathlon goals, and have kept me motivated through difficult periods of training. They have also kept me very grounded when I do have success in the sport. My coaches are also very important because they are the ones who have shown me the process to take in training and racing, and have shared their own experiences with me. Jim Vance and the Formula Endurance coaching staff have a huge amount of knowledge of the sport and have provided me with the guidance that I have needed to get me to this level. I also believe that I am a product of the entire San Diego triathlon community. Many TCSD members have seen me grow up in the last few years, and have always been very encouraging and supportive.
Craig: How has your Christian up bringing helped to shape you into the athlete and woman you are today?
Jessica: Knowing that I am a part of something greater than myself has really kept me grounded and humble. I know that God has given me the talent and ability to be a triathlete, and because of that, I am able to find true joy in the sport and share that joy with others. Also, our faith in God as a family has kept our relationships with each other strong even through stresses of life, as well as extremely busy training and race schedules.
Craig: Who are your sponsors?
Jessica: I am currently sponsored by Fusion Bikes, a bike company based out of Arizona. Formula Endurance also provides support with equipment and some general costs of the sport for the team as a whole. Also my biggest sponsor is “The Bank of Tomasek,” i.e. my parents. I could not do triathlon without the tremendous support of my sponsors!
Craig: What are your future triathlon goals?
Jessica: My short term goal would be to do well in collegiate triathlon, and help take the Queens University team to a national championship (Go Royals!!). In the future, I would like to race triathlon professionally, but my ultimate long-term goal is to maintain the multisport lifestyle for my lifetime.
Craig: Jessica, the TCSD has been a huge fan of yours over the years. Thank you for telling us your story. We are going to miss you when you are away in North Carolina. The sky is the limit for you!
Craig Zelent is a USA Triathlon Level 1 Certified Coach. Craig can be reached at 760-214-0055 or firstname.lastname@example.org.