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19 November 2007

JSU Alum & Former Baseball Pitcher
Now Competes as a Triathlete
on the World Stage

Lucas McCollum, a graduate of Gov. Thomas Johnson High School, has been competing in triathalons for the past two years, totaling 11 so far. McCollum, a baseball player in high school, now spends four days in the pool, three on the bike (300 miles a week), and four days running (8 to 18 miles a day). Photo by Graham Cullen.

Reprinted here in its entirety.

Former T.J. Pitcher Changes Cleats
for Shot at Triathlon World Championships

By Ron Cassie
News-Post Staff

As a right-handed pitcher at Gov. Thomas Johnson High and Jacksonville State University, a Division I program in Alabama, Lucas McCollum had a good fastball and knew how to change speeds.

After graduating, he pursued his dream of becoming a professional ballplayer for two years in the Independent League.

But following a couple of years of minor league ball with the Selma Cloverleafs, he said he realized it "was time to get a real career." At that point, he mostly lifted weights to stay in shape.

McCollum earned a degree in exercise physiology and a minor in nutrition and enrolled in the University of Maryland Baltimore school of physical therapy. That's where he met Alan Kinster, an older age-group triathlete studying in the same program.

McCollum's athletic career was about to blossom as he changed gears.

Kinster's advice would affect McCollum's athletic career and life as much as any baseball coach's ever had. Two-and-a-half years after entering his first triathlon, McCollum qualified for the Nov. 10 Half-Ironman World Championships in Clearwater, Fla.

McCollum finished 270th out of nearly 1,600 competitors from around the world. The 27-year-old took 55th in his age group and posted the 12th best in his group for an American over the 1/2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, and 13-mile run.

Thing is, all those years as a baseball pitcher, McCollum didn't care for the most basic conditioning traditionally required of hurlers.

"I hated running," he said. "And as pitcher, all we did was run. The position players were always getting new gloves and bats and all we got was running shoes."

He finished second in his age group at the USA Triathlon Halfmax National Championships on Sept. 15, and 16th place overall. That means he will travel to The Netherlands next August and compete for Team USA at the World Long Course Championships.

When McCollum started working out with Kinster, he had no plan in mind. Kinster recognized that McCollum, at about half his age, wasn't destined to become another ex-jock struggling to keep the pounds off.

McCollum's first triathlon was the Florida Half-Ironman in May 2006. He took 30th in his group.

"I got through the swim and then passed everybody on the bike," McCollum said. "I was talking to people the whole way, having fun."

Ever since, he's been finishing in the top three in his age group.

"And I got addicted to the sport," he said.

After the first triathlon in the Spring of 2006, he did the Half-Ironman Med-Ex Mountaineer Triathlon in West Virginia and took sixth in his age group. That qualified him for the Halfmax National Championships that year in his second triathlon. Later that season, he did two smaller races: the Lancaster YMCA Triathlon and the General Smallwood Olympic-distance triathlon. He took second in his age group at both events.

This past season, he raced at Ironman 70.3 California in San Diego, Tri 101 in Bradenton, Fla., the Med-Ex Half-Ironman again, the Cougar Biathlon in Frederick and Timberman 70.3 in Gilford, N.H., where he qualified for the World Championships this month in Clearwater. That's the extent of his experience.

A 6-foot 1, 190-pound pitcher, McCollum slimmed down 25 pounds over the past two years. During a typical week, he spends four days swimming, three days on his bike, logging about 300 miles total and four days running an average of eight to 18 miles at a pop.

His strength as a triathlete is his cycling, he said.

"I never rode a lot, can't really explain it," he said. "Just came natural, I guess. I've been out on long training rides, climbing hills with professional cyclists and there have been times when they're struggling to keep up."

McCollum works at the Spring Ridge Physical Therapy Center in Frederick. He swims at both Hood College and Lake Linganore and rides and runs "all over Frederick County." He's a member of the budding Frederick Triathlon Club.

"Swimming is coming along," McCollum said. "My run splits are the main thing I'm focused on improving at the moment."

His goal was running sub 7:05-minute miles for the Half-Ironman World Championships in Clearwater, which he beat, averaging 6:53 a mile.

"I've got some work to do," McCollum said. "I think getting down to 6:40, 6:45-minute miles is very doable next season."

Other goals for next year include qualifying for the Half-Ironman World Championships again, qualifying for the Hawaii IronWorld Championships, and finishing the season ranked as one of the top U.S. 100 triathletes.

Maybe those baseball coaches knew something: He should've been running more all along.

See story at the Frederick News-Post's website:

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