WESTPORT, Conn. – Already this summer, Westport teenager Marcus Russi has gone cycling in the French Alps, conducted original research as an intern at the Yale Biomedical Engineering Institute and won his age division in a sprint triathlon at Lake Waramaug.
The best, however, may be yet to come. Russi, 16, will compete in the Junior Elite National triathlon championships in West Chester, Ohio. The race features the nation’s top triathletes between the ages of 16 and 19.
Russi, a rising senior who will be one of the captains of the Staples High cross country team in the fall, began competing in triathlons when he was 8. He has grown more serious in the past few years, however, since joining the Staples track team.
“There are many things I enjoy about the sport,’’ Russi said. “The diversity that results from training in three sports always keeps training interesting but also makes focusing on each sport individually a challenge. You never have an excuse not to train. Even if injured, the odds are it's possible to continue training in at least one of the disciplines. For me, this is fun because I never become bored and always have more training to do.”
His training this summer included a trip to the Bethel Cycle French Alps training camp during the Tour de France. Russi rode and ran at high altitude and climbed some of the famous hills included in the Tour de France.
When he returned home, Russi competed in the Hopkins Vineyard Triathlon at Lake Waramaug and finished fourth overall in 56:30 for the sprint distance event. That was more than eight minutes ahead of the second place finisher in their age division. He has worked harder this summer on his running, and the progress has been startling.
“Last summer my best was biking and this summer it's running,’’ Russi said. “This summer I've done much more running than last summer, and the result has been a stronger running leg, allowing me to catch other competitors throughout the final stage of the race, but also a weaker swimming leg.”
In addition to track and cross country at Staples, Russi also competes on the swim team. He juggles sports with his demanding academic workload while pursuing other recreational outlets, such as piano. It is rare for young athletes to dedicate themselves to triathlons.
“Having a strong background in at least one of the sports is absolutely necessary to do well at the national level, and even with prior experience, it's often overwhelming trying to juggle three sports, classes and other interests as a high school student,’’ Russi said. “Like any competitive sport, triathlon requires sacrifices in other parts of your life but also is a highly rewarding and worthwhile pursuit.”