At the end of a hard work week, some colleagues may get together to grab a bite to eat or relax with a drink. However, at Bulloch Academy, a few teachers and coaches decided to kick it up a notch with their extra curricular after-work activities.
Beth Burke (BA math teacher), Jessie Rushing (BA middle school geometry and P.E. teacher), Beth Sands (softball and basketball coach at BA) and Chandler Dennard (Assistant head of school, athletic director) are members of a triathlon team along with former Bulloch Academy athlete Ashley Burke and active BA community member Dub Sands.
BA’s triathlon team recently competed in the Ride on Ryan triathlon event in Savannah, Saturday. Rushing finished second in her age division in the duathlon, Ashley Burke won top prize in the duathlon and Coach Burke won her age division in the triathlon.
Ride on Ryan is a grueling course, complete with a 500-meter swim, a 13-mile bike ride and the coup de grace of a 3.1-mile run.
Despite the taxing nature of training for a triathlon, BA’s close group of parents, teachers and coaches push each other to the next level.
The group began doing what coach Dennard called, “P90x in the water” a couple of years ago with Beth Sands. The water workouts transformed into more as the training progressed.
“It started out as a way for us to just get into shape. Next thing you know we’re talking about entering in a triathlon,” said Dennard, 49, who completed the Ride on Ryan in just under an hour and a half. “I enjoy the comradery and just a kid of way to hang out. We started with just four and now there’s six of us.”
Two years ago, BA’s triathlon team ran three events. Last year the group did just two. This year, Dennard said the group wants to complete four or five triathlon events.
Nonetheless, the problem isn’t finding a triathlon to compete in, but rather finding the time to train.
The group of former athletes, teachers and coaches have to find time throughout their busy work schedule to train. Sometimes that means waking up at 6 a.m. to go for a swim.
“We swim on Tuesdays at six o’clock in the morning. This afternoon once we get off work, we’ll go bike riding. We try to hit all the different phases,” Dennard said. “It’s tough. We probably don’t train as much as we should to be competitive. It’s a lot of time.”
The benefits of completing a triathlon go far beyond the physical for this group. Students have begun to invest interest in their teacher's’ success and athletes are finding less excuses for running an extra sprint after practice.
“(My students) keep up with it. I had students tell me, ‘oh you finished first in your age group.’ I guess they like to see old folks like us doing good,” said Coach Burke, laughing.
Burke has been called the team’s “leader.” Her dedication to athletics and triathlons is hard to deny.
Several years ago Burke injured herself in a bike accident during a duathlon, but since decided to pick bike riding back up and pursue her passion.
It’s the passion and will to compete that pushes BA’s triathlon unit.
At any given time you can expect the Gators’ close-knit group to give each other a little light-hearted “ribbing.”
During Saturday’s triathlon, Beth Burke showed why she’s the team’s leader.
“You better check your ego at the door, because these guys will humble you. Beth (Burke) had the best time out of the four of us,” Dennard said. “Me and Dub were pushing each other on the bike and Beth (Burke) just came riding along and looked back at us like, ‘how are you guys doing?’”
The constant quipping and gentle prods are what make this team special, Dennard said. Although each team member competes individually, having athletes geared towards being better makes the group stronger.
Beth Burke said she would love to add more members in the future.
“A lot of people didn’t even know Bulloch Academy had a triathlon team. We’d like to add some more people. Hopefully, some more interest would spark up and maybe some younger kids would want to come out and do it, too,” Burke said.