Triathlon Three Sport Stars

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Triathlon three sport stars Hailey Poe and Annika Cotner are the latest standouts in coach Jenny Garrison’s remarkable program and the subjects of this week’s Red Zone Cardinal Corner.

In it’s short history, the North Central Women’s Triathlon Team has achieved tremendous success, including three consecutive national championships. This year, as the team has returned to competition after a year away, freshman Hailey Poe and Senior Annika Cotner are both looking to bring an individual national championship back to Naperville.

Jenny Garrison: Well it’s been a lot of fun honestly. Um, having Hailey here definitely brought up the level of intensity a little bit I would say, although our girls in general are pretty intense just because as coaches we bring that. But it’s been incredibly fun to watch the dynamic coming out of the COVID year not having the year of competition and so there’s a little bit of anxiety and excitement at finally getting a chance to compete. So I would say that excitement kind of coupled with you know the talent that Hailey has and what shes helping Anni do, I think Anni is honestly, this is the strongest I’ve ever seen her and a couple of our other girls this is the strongest I’ve ever seen them. So I feel like we’re, we just every week we keep getting better and better. It’s exciting.

Annika Cotner: Hailey is definitely an amazing asset to our team and she is the strongest triathlete in my opinion in the DIII um collegiate triathlon and um Hailey has pushed me really hard in practices to improve and get stronger and get faster. Hailey did unfortunately have a crash last weekend and I knew for me when I saw Hailey crashed at the bottom of that hill, like I have to really put in a lot of hard work to make up for this because Hailey is the strongest one out there.

Hailey Poe: Oh yeah it’s definitely awesome to work with Anni. She is an amazing athlete and she’s just a phenomenal biker. Her bike skills are amazing so, I knew she had a great race this past weekend and I’m so proud of all that shes done. We push each other all the time in practice so it’s great.

Why Triathlon?

The level that Cotner and Poe are competing at requires elite performance in all three disciplines of triathlon, which makes it a challenge that few athletes choose to pursue and even fewer athletes are able to dominate.

Annika Cotner: Um, I’ve swam competitively since I was about six years old and I always super eager to race and run um when I was in seventh grade my dad bought me a road bike and started taking me out on rides and I decided wanted to do a triathlon um sort of out of nowhere. And I would do a couple here and there every summer just little local races. And when triathlon was announced that it was going to be an NCAA sport I was sort of at stage in my high school career of deciding what I was going to do next, and this just seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to try something new and I’ve loved it.

Hailey Poe: Whenever I was seven year old I did a youth triathlon, just like locally. My dad convinced me to do it and he didn’t think I was going to like it because I was riding on like a little Barbie bicycle and I had just started swim team for the summer and I hated running at that point. But, after the race I proclaimed that it was one of the most fun things I had ever done, so I wanted to come back the next year and I did. Every year after that I just kept expanding my horizons and its been really worth it ever since.

Jenny Garrison: Triathlon in general teaches a great amount of discipline, hard work, your ability to withstand discomfort too. Because I think a lot of kids when they do sports, whether it high school or college they don’t really, especially I feel like as time comes on with technology people are stuck more in their house and their more on a computer. They’re not getting out and getting uncomfortable and triathlon for these women really is throwing discomfort in your face. And it’s learning time management times ten, you have to balance three sports in a week training constantly for them to be the best you can at every one of those sports. So really, it’s teaching them time management, hard work, the ability to kind of push yourself outside of the box and do something that you never thought was possible. Which you can completely relate that to a job, any kind of job, your work experience with that job, relationship, parenting. So it’s, I feel like there’s a lot to be taught that they can put for the rest of their lives.

Coaching is Key

While it’s athletes like Annika and Hailey who are the competitors, the foundation of their and the program’s success is Coach Garrison, who both credit as an inspiration and reason for choosing North Central.

Hailey Poe: Definitely the coaching, coach Jenny and coach Kurt are amazing. Just looking at all the other programs, it didn’t matter what division, the coaches here are amazing compared to a lot of the other coaches I talked to. And, just the team environment when I visited was beyond anything that I found at another school.

Annika Cotner: Coach Garrison has always been a big cheerer out on the courses and really motivating. And I knew that transferring here would allow me to reach that potential and I’ve definitely surpassed what I even expected out of myself from coming here.

What’s Up Next

With three weeks until their next race and nationals six weeks away, it’s time to put in the work that could turn championship dreams into reality.

Hailey Poe: Yeah so from, what I’m expecting is to go a lot harder into these next few weeks to prepare for our next race. Our next race in Virginia is a pretty big one for us so, we’re looking to really hit it hard these next few weeks, get some good solid training in, and then right before the race sort of hold back a little bit and get some rest in so we can do some big things there.

Jenny Garrison: Yeah so now, I would say we are into the thick of it, so we’ve got a big race in a little under three weeks so the next two weeks are going to be pretty challenging, and then we’ll have a week of easy and then we pretty much have big races. For these two girls, we’re taking them to Utah at the end of October as well, just these two. I would say this is going to be the hardest chunk of it for the next five weeks. You know with little brakes here and there, but this is where, you know, what’s going to make or break it. We know what we have to work on to win and we are going to work on it. Because that what we know we have to do to win.