BHSU triathlon looks to continue success

Black Hills State University women’s triathlon kicks off its 2019 season at Hot Springs Aug. 31, before hosting a NCAA Midwest Qualifier in Belle Fourche Sept. 15. Photos courtesy BHSU Sports Information Department

SPEARFISH — After two consecutive seasons in which the team finished in the top-three nationally, the Black Hills State University women’s triathlon team will look to stay elite as it enters the 2019 season. 

Adding to the intrigue of the season is a home national qualifying meet in September.

Connie Feist is beginning her third season as Yellow Jackets’ head coach.

During the 2019 season, the Yellow Jackets finished third at the Women’s Collegiate National Championships. Due to sickness, only three members of the Green and Gold competed, yet the team still made the Division II podium. BHSU was led by Mathilde Bernard, who completed her sophomore season with a third place finish in Division II. The two-time All-American enters her junior year looking for more hardware, both individually, and as a team.

Three additional Yellow Jackets — junior Emma Stone and sophomores Chelsea Basford and Kennedy Teeslink — return to the squad to provide experience.Feist said athleticism is one of the Yellow Jackets’ strong suits. 

Three newcomers join the the team season. Alexis Sjurseth, from Fargo, N.D., comes to BHSU with a strong swimming background, while Hannah Hirschi, from Billings, Mont., and Myna Buckley, from Henderson, Nev., each competed on the cross country and swim teams for their respective high schools and have experience with triathlons

Swimming is a discipline that has shown improvement, Feist said. 

Feist said that is partly because the team is bringing in athletes who have a strong swimming background or already have a lot of experience in that area during high school.

The Black Hills State triathlon schedule is front-loaded. The team had trained for 10 days as of Aug. 22, with the first competition only nine days after that.

The University of South Dakota hosts an invitational on Sept. 22. That precedes an East Regional Qualifier on Oct. 19 (Smith Mountain Lake, Va.) and the national championships Nov. 16 in Tempe, Ariz.

“It’s probably one of the more difficult schedules we’ve had in that it comes very early in the season,” Feist said. She added, however, that it provides the chance for intense training to prepare for nationals.

Feist looks for the Yellow Jackets to be competitive this season. She said the athletes are very committed to the training program, and they should represent the school well.

What will success look like for Black Hills State this season?

“I would define it as all of our athletes performing personal bests,” Feist said. “If they’re able to improve and develop, that’s what we’re looking for.”

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