Luke Gilsinger understands top-level competition.
The Wildwood resident is a senior at St. Louis University High School and a member of the school’s soccer team. SLUH regularly is considered one of the top teams in the state and the midfielder is a key to continuing that tradition.
When Gilsinger went looking for another outlet that would help him on the soccer field and during the track season, he only had to turn to his family.
His uncle, Dan Engelhard, founded the High School Triathlon Club last year. It has grown from five participants a year ago, including Gilsinger, to 20 signed up for Lake St. Louis Triathlon on Saturday.
“It’s tough,” Gilsinger said. “It’s definitely way different than just running or just swimming. It takes everything in your body.”
It wasn’t too tough for Gilsinger this past Saturday. He finished tops in his age group at the Lake St. Louis Triathlon. His time of 59 minutes, 14 seconds in the short course was nearly 12 minutes faster than the next closest competitor.
Saturday’s event was reduced to a biathlon after rain and lightning canceled the swimming as the first portion of the event.
Gilsinger was one of a handful of Wildwood and Eureka athletes who finished high in their age brackets. Craig Maxwell, from Eureka, was third in the 35-39 long course category. Jim Wright, 69, of Eureka, was second in his age group of 65-69.
Wildwood’s Scot Walker and Fred Morton took third and fourth respectively in the 50-54 group in the short course. Ted Scheff was fourth for 55-59 year olds.
Clad in bright orange and black uniforms, the high school team wasn’t easy to miss. Even though some of the 750-plus participants left after rain delayed and eventually cancelled the swimming portion of the event, those bright uniforms trickled in and out of the exchange area during the cycling and the running circuit, the second and third legs, respectively.
Seeing those uniforms were a big boost Gilsinger said.
“Every time I run past somebody, they’re encouraging me and I’m encouraging them,” said. “That really does help.”
Following Saturday’s race, there was nothing but smiles as the students finished the race. In part, the joy came from finishing the event, but the benefit of doing so as a team added to the fun.
“It’s really cool because I’ll invite one friend that I started it with and they go and invite other friends and it keeps getting bigger,” said Scott Engelhard, Gilsinger’s cousin said. “We keep our friends and train together, and it’s awesome.”
Those friends range from 12 to 18 years old. The only requirement that Dan Engelhard has for his athletes is that they try. The squad practices twice a week throughout the year, one night dedicated to running and cycling and the other to swimming.
Saturday marked the final triathlon of the season for the club. Knowing that each one finished the race, despite the rain and in some cases the pain, provided further proof they had all reached the goal.
“When these kids cross the finish line, they can take on the world,” Engelhard said. “That was the whole goal. It was to take kids who may not be very active (and give them an outlet.)”