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McHenry graduate focused on triathlons in the future

After cross country and track, McHenry grad focuses on new sport

Jeff Sabatka learned a lot about his body as he fought through nagging injuries during his college running career.

It was frustrating to be hurt at times, but the 2010 McHenry graduate turned those misfortunes into his own benefit.

Sabatka figured out that logging huge miles like his cross country and track teammates at NCAA Division II Western State Colorado University did not serve him well. Sabatka found out he did better with 40 to 45 miles a week and by adding cross training with swimming and biking.

That led Sabatka to another form of competition – triathlon.

On Saturday, Sabatka finished 103rd overall out of more then 3,000 competitors, 24th in the 20 to 24 age group at the USA Triathlon 2014 Age Group Championships in Milwaukee.

Sabatka finished the 1,500-meter swim, 40K bike and 10K run in 2 hours, 2 minutes and 22 seconds.

Sabatka, who graduated from Western State in May with a degree in exercise and sports science, earned a spot for next summer’s World Triathlon Championships in Chicago by finishing in the top 25.

Unfortunately, Sabatka was unable to declare for that race because of uncertainty with his future. He is trying to get into graduate school for physical therapy, so he had to pass on the invitation.

“I’m not sure what I’m going to be doing next summer,” said Sabatka, a Northwest Herald All-Area first-team selection in cross country in his senior year of 2009. “Triathlon’s a good variety. It’s a lot of fun to do. I’ve been liking it a lot.”

Sabatka plans to continue cross training and competing in triathlons. He has learned his legs handle fewer miles better, but he also can keep up by training in the other two events.

“Running isn’t really going to work for me with high mileage,” Sabatka said. “I had all of these little annoying injuries, but I’m kind of over those now. I’d do 40 to 45 miles a week and most people on my team were doing 60 to 80. But this spring, I was still keeping up with them in track.”

Sabatka does cross country skiing in the winter, along with the swimming and biking to supplement his running. The USA Triathlon Age Group Championships was his sixth triathlon overall, his third this summer.

Sabatka walked on at Western State, located in Gunnison, for cross country and track. Last fall, he rode with the club mountain biking team instead of running cross country. With all the other training, he felt strong when the track season came around in the spring.

Now, he’s looking at 2 1/2 years of a doctoral program in physical therapy, something in which he is well-versed after incurring various injuries.

Basically, Sabatka is happy to feel good with his new training and looking forward to more triathlons.

“It’s worked out pretty well, I’m right in the mix,” Sabatka said. “With a whole lot of biking and swimming and not just running, I keep fit and it’s a lot of fun. I think this will continue to be my future.”

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