Morehead-Cain triathletes on what it takes to master three sports, highlights from the 2021–2022 season

News & Spotlights | June 16, 2022
UNC Club Triathlon members at the Azalea Sprint Triathlon held in March 2022.

Reflections from UNC Triathlon Club president Olivia Romine ’23 on two-year term leading the Tar Heels

UNC Club Triathlon is probably my favorite part about being a Tar Heel.

I started triathlon when I was eleven and competed at the junior elite level in high school. I ended up burnt out and unsure of my future in competitive triathlon. I took a step back at the beginning of college, but training with the team over the last few years helped me find a new love for the sport.

Even more meaningful than my own journey in triathlon has been sharing the sport with athletes just beginning theirs. As president for the last two years, hosting a mini triathlon and leading training sessions with new members have been great ways to give back to the sport.

We had a record-breaking year for UNC Club Triathlon, with huge growth in members and great results. In early April 2022, we competed in the USA Triathlon National Championships (2022 Collegiate Club) in Lake Lanier, Georgia. Our mixed-team relay, where two women and two men each complete a mini triathlon before handing off to a teammate, included myself and Jacoby Smith ’25. We placed sixteenth!

I also placed twelfth in the draft-legal race, which is an Olympic-style race where you can bike with other people. (In traditional racing, you must race separate from one another.) Jacoby and Quintin Gay ’24 participated in the race, too, while Emmaus Holder ’23, Julian Goldner ’24, and I competed in the Olympic-distance race. It was Julian’s first triathlon, which was great to see, especially since it was a long-distance race on a challenging course.

I competed in all three events. We had to swim in 57°F water, and big hills on the bike made it tough for all. But I’ve found in my two years as president, and four years as a member of the team, that the effort is always worth it. —Olivia Romine ’23

“Even more meaningful than my own journey in triathlon has been sharing the sport with athletes just beginning theirs.”
  • Olivia Romine
  • 2023
Andrew Buchanan ’23 raced his first full Ironman in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on May 22, 2022. Andrew placed first for his age group (men ages eighteen to twenty-four), qualifying the scholar for the 2022 Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, this October.


Andrew Buchanan ’23, Mad Max, and thoughts heading into the Ironman World Championships this fall

I told almost nobody about my plans to do Ironman Tulsa, a 140-mile race. I’m generally reluctant to even tell people that I race triathlon at all—especially Ironman—because triathletes are often result-obsessed, and non-triathletes often pin the endeavor to a single event. This sport is entirely inward for me.

I signed up for IM Tulsa for a dozen different reasons, but the main one was to encourage my own mental and physical well-being through grief. Ironman racing is a multi-month gift I gave myself: a promise to prioritize the activities that I love the most and taking care of myself in the process.

Training each week was a reserved space to explore North Carolina on bike, run dirt roads at sunset, or to let life’s stresses dissolve in Bowman Gray pool.

I had no coach and am not affiliated with any club or organization, so most of my training was self-directed and centered around consistently having as much fun as possible (think Mad Max: riding bikes 60 miles shirtless through the night with music blasting and bright colorful lights). An Iron-distance event requires a huge volume of training, so why not enjoy it?

The race results really shocked me. I had no clue I would win my age group. I toed the start line keeping in mind my long ‘list of whys.’ Nine of the ten hours were really fun, and that final hour pulled me on an inward journey full of raw emotion and grit. It was an experience unlike any other.

I can’t wait to race in the Ironman World Championships this October. This journey was life-changing for me, and if there’s any way that it might reach others and inspire them, I want to try. —Andrew Buchanan ’23

“I signed up for IM Tulsa for a dozen different reasons, but the main one was to encourage my own mental and physical well-being through grief.”
  • Andrew Buchanan
  • 2023
Jacoby Smith ’25 competed in the Kinetic Cup Triathlon Championships (placing fortieth out of 121 triathletes); the Azalea Sprint Triathlon as part of the North Carolina Triathlon Series (placing sixth overall, first for the Tar Heels, and first for his age group); the Belews Lake Triathlon (placing third overall); the USA Triathlon National Championships (2022 Collegiate Club) draft-legal qualifier and mixed-relay race (competing among the top seventy-five collegiate qualifiers); and the USA Triathlon Elite Athlete Qualification—National Triathlon Development Race Series (placing twenty-first overall).


Jacoby Smith ’25, UNC Triathlon Club member, on his ‘secret identity’ from high school to competing in the national championships with the Tar Heels

Growing up, triathlon was my secret identity. My first camp cemented my interest at age eight, which led me to race for the next six years over the summers throughout Idaho.

At age fourteen, I competed in my first Olympic-distance triathlon (through the Emmett, Idaho-based race, Emmett’s Most Excellent Triathlons). After an amazing start I wrecked in the last two miles of the bike portion. Shaken up, bruised, and beat, I turned in the bike that day and never renewed my license. It was a bittersweet goodbye to a hobby that had consistently embedded motivation in my younger years.

Throughout high school I played varsity, basketball, and golf, and ran independently. After I realized my collegiate basketball dreams were scarce to none, I looked to find a new athletic avenue through which I could a build a foundation for the next four years. And little did I know that triathlon would be just that.

I emailed UNC Triathlon Club president Olivia Romine ’23 over the summer of 2021 inquiring about times, tryouts, and racing. Astonishingly, I was the only freshman that joined the team last year.

Despite having only been involved for a year so far, so much has happened that’s truly changed my life forever. I jumped back into my old training habits (practicing fifteen to twenty hours a week) and began racing the fall season head-on.

I also applied for a collegiate sponsorship with Zoot Sports on Team Zoot, a network of athletes from the United States and Europe. To my surprise, I got just that.

Triathlon was back, and I was going to give it my all until I had nothing left. I raced the fall and spring season with the Tar Heels. In May, Olivia and I competed in a USA Triathlon Elite Athlete Qualification (through the National Triathlon Development Race Series) in Richmond, Virginia, too.

UNC Triathlon is for beginners, pro-amateur, and collegiate racers competing at the elite and national levels. Olivia has done a fantastic job growing the team and has personally helped train me in the draft legal arena. —Jacoby Smith ’25

“Despite having only been involved for a year so far, so much has happened that’s truly changed my life forever.”
  • Jacoby Smith
  • 2025

The following Morehead-Cain Scholars are involved in the UNC Triathlon Club:

  • Emmaus Holder ’23
  • Olivia Romine ’23
  • Quintin Gay ’24
  • Julian Goldner ’24
  • Jacoby Smith ’25

The UNC Triathlon Club was featured via in fall 2021. Read the piece.

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Photos contributed by Olivia Romine ’23, Andrew Buchanan ’23, and Jacoby Smith ’25.