Junior World Champion Lukas Verzbicas Commits to Triathlon Full Time, Will Withdraw from the University of Oregon

Lukas Verzbicas won the 2011 ITU Junior World Championships in Beijing. Photo: USA Triathlon

From USA Triathlon Press Release –

Verzbicas, who was victorious at September’s International Triathlon Union (ITU) Junior World Championships in Beijing, will relocate to Colorado Springs, Colo., this fall and join the newly established Elite Triathlon Academy. He also will gain resident status at the U.S. Olympic Training Center.

Verzbicas will enroll as a student-athlete at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs in January 2012 after formally withdrawing from the University of Oregon, where he was a freshman member of the cross country team.

Prior to joining the legendary running program at Oregon, Verzbicas fashioned one of the greatest careers in the history of high school distance running. He was named the National High School Cross Country Athlete of the Year as a sophomore and junior (he graduated early and bypassed his senior year) and set national high school records for the outdoor two-mile and the indoor 5,000 meters. He was just the fifth high school runner ever to break the four-minute mile mark.

“This choice was extremely difficult, but after careful thought and consideration I have elected to follow my heart and commit full time to the sport of triathlon. I look forward to pursuing my dream of one day representing the United States in the Summer Olympic Games,” Verzbicas said. “I would like to thank my coaches and teammates at Oregon for welcoming me with open arms this fall. The program has a rich tradition and, with so many talented young runners on its roster, I believe is well positioned to compete for a national championship in the very near future. I wish them nothing but the best.”

Verzbicas, who also won the 2011 USA Triathlon Junior Elite National Championship title, made national headlines this summer when he postponed his running career in order to train for the ITU Junior World Championships and ultimately claim the gold medal in honor of his triathlon club teammate and best friend, Kevin McDowell. McDowell, who placed third at the 2010 event in Budapest, was the returning favorite but had his season cut short after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in March 2011. With his treatments behind him, McDowell is now a student at UCCS and training as a part of the Elite Triathlon Academy.

“We are certainly excited to see Lukas return to the sport of triathlon. He has a very bright future as a member of USA Triathlon’s athlete development program and we will support his career to the fullest,” said USA Triathlon CEO Rob Urbach. “The establishment of the Elite Triathlon Academy makes it possible for our best young athletes – including Lukas – to continue on the path of their chosen sport while attaining a college degree. Lukas’ decision speaks volumes about how far triathlon has advanced.”

The Elite Triathlon Academy, a landmark program that provides the United States’ top up-and-coming triathletes the opportunity to receive a premier college education while benefitting from a full-time coach and the nation’s best training resources at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, debuted in August 2011 at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs with national-level support from USA Triathlon and the United States Olympic Committee. Prior to the formation of this program, the top junior triathletes in the U.S. often chose to pursue running and swimming at the collegiate level due to the availability of scholarships. The Elite Triathlon Academy will identify potential Olympians and allow them to continue their multisport development throughout their college years with the potential to earn a collegiate scholarship.

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