When Truman native and Colorado State University student Chris Leiferman competed in his first triathlon, he never expected that it would become such a big part of his life.
"I signed up and did my first triathlon because my older brother had suggested it and he was really into mountain biking," said Leiferman.
Now, six years later, Leiferman has achieved professional certification. In fact, he finished ninth out of 621 participants in a time of 1 hour, 49 minutes and 50 seconds at the National Collegiate Triathlon meet on April 13 in Tempe, Ariz.
HITTING THE PAVEMENT — Chris Leiferman competes in the running portion of the National Collegiate Triathlon on April 13 in Tempe, Ariz. The former Truman prep standout and certified professional triathlete went on to capture ninth place out of 621 competitors at the national event. (Photo Courtesy of Smug Mug)
"I was actually a little disappointed with where I placed in the race. I was hoping for top five, but if my swimming had been where I wanted it to be, I probably could have made it," said Leiferman.
Leiferman competed in football, wrestling and baseball as a prep athlete at Truman High School, but in the past six years has found a new passion for the intense training for triathlons.
"Mentally, there are a lot of similarities between wrestling and doing triathlons. When you are in the middle of a hard practice or trying to cut weight, you have to be mentally tough. It is a lot like when you are running or competing in a triathlon and have 6 miles to go," said Leiferman.
At Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo., Leiferman and his teammates compete for the triathlon club team, and during the season, compete in four fall races with the hope of qualifying for the Collegiate Conference Championship and Collegiate Nationals in the spring.
"We are a club team, and so we don't have scholarships. We are full-time students who work and we also work out two or three times a day for training," said Leiferman.
That is a vast difference from where Leiferman started out his triathlon career.
In the early stages of Leiferman's pursuit of the sport, he did not have either a coach, a team or training equipment. That is all different now.
"When I first got started, I had never swam competitively and looked up on YouTube how to do flip turns and swim strokes correctly," said Leiferman. "Our team has a coach and so now my practices are way more efficient and I'm getting better at swimming, but it could still use work."
The hard work and dedication is paying off as Leiferman earned his professional certification in a triathlon in Memphis last May.
"You become a professional by finishing within a certain percentage of the winner in the race. In the one that I was able to do that, I finished within the top four percent," said Leiferman. "And then, of course, after that there are forms to fill out and submit."
With professional certification comes other perks, like sponsors for equipment and new challenges.
This summer, Leiferman is already planning on competing in six professional triathlons, with more than one opportunity to square off against some of the United States' Olympians.
"It is pretty exciting to be competing at the professional level now. At the Minneapolis triathlon on July 13, I know that Hunter Kemper (U.S. Olympic triathlete) will be racing and I'll be starting at the same time as him," said Leiferman. "That is pretty cool for a kid from small-town Truman to get to be on the same starting line as Olympians."