15:55 PM

Alumni Participate in Triathlon

University of St. Thomas Houston alumni Aaron Stryk, Justin Smith and Shelley GrahmannAaron Stryk ’01 and Justin Smith ’03, president and vice president of the UST Alumni Board, respectively, and UST Board of Directors member Shelley Grahmann ’02 participated as a relay team in the 2018 Oilman Texas Triathlon.

“I loved having the opportunity to compete with my fellow alums,” Stryk said. “I love cycling, and getting the chance to be a part of a relay team with my friends has been incredible!”

Forming the Relay Team

The idea to participate in the triathlon first came about during last year’s Mardi Gras Gala. Grahmann and Smith were discussing the fact that Smith, a retired competitive swimmer, had recently participated in the Chevron Marathon. However, two weeks after the marathon, Smith was diagnosed with bicuspid aortic valve disease. Up until the point of diagnosis, he had been living unaware that he had a congenital birth defect. This meant he would have to undergo open heart surgery to replace his aortic valve.

Justin Smith“While I was lamenting the fact that I probably couldn’t ever try an Ironman [Triathlon], Shelley told me about the Oilman and the relay option,” Smith said. “She said that if I could get healthy enough to do the swim after the surgery, she would do the run portion. And a year and a half later, I held her to it.”

Grahmann, a self-described casual runner, has run in both the Boston Marathon and the Comrades Marathon in South Africa. In addition, she competed in an ultramarathon of 100 miles, cycled from London to Paris and summited Mount Kilimanjaro.

Aaron StrykAt this year’s Two Saints and a Taco Tasting, Grahmann and Smith revisited the relay team idea with Stryk. Stryk had previously competed in several triathlons – including two Ironmans – and participated in numerous marathons and long-distance bicycle rides.

“It had gotten us thinking about other opportunities to engage as UST alumni,” Grahmann said. “Since graduating from UST, Aaron, Justin and I have crossed paths at several recreational athletic events, including the Houston Marathon, but had not competed together as a team.”

Race Day

Shelley GrahmannEach member of the relay team participated in the section that played to their respective strength: Smith swam the 1.2 miles, Stryk bicycled the 56-mile bike leg and Grahmann ran the 13.1 miles of the running portion. Although the team did not place, all three participants described the event as a success, anyway.

“The finish line is always my favorite part,” Grahmann said. “My second favorite part was reminiscing with Aaron and Justin about the temperament with which we would have approached our competition at Oilman if we had competed when we were still undergraduates at UST. It’s a good thing we learned goodness, discipline and judgment at UST.  We might have otherwise let competitiveness get the better of sportsmanship.”

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by Katie Fleming