Keeping up with the pros

Liberty triathlon athlete becomes first to compete in NCAA Championship

Senior Megan Merryman placed sixth for the Liberty University triathlon team at the NCAA Women’s Collegiate Triathlon National Championship Nov. 5, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana, according to

Out of nearly 60 women, Megan Merryman completed the 400-meter swim, 20-kilometer bike, 5-kilometer run race in one hour, three minutes and 40 seconds — less than three minutes behind the first place winner Erika Ackerlund from the University of Montana, reported.

SMILE — Merryman showed off her medal. Photo provided

SMILE — Merryman showed off her medal. Photo provided

Megan Merryman’s coach, Parker Spencer, said she was the first to represent Liberty’s club triathlon team in an NCAA championship since the team’s formation less than 10 years ago.

“What she was able to do was incredible,” Spencer said. Not only did Megan Merryman place in the top ten, but she later found out she would earn her pro card from the race.

Because two of the top five winners were international, Megan Merryman earned fourth place, and the top five nationally ranked triathletes earn their pro card, Spencer said.

“The top 10 girls were already professional athletes,” Spencer said. “Megan was really still the only amateur.” Megan Merryman started her triathlon career at the end of her freshman year at the Angels Race in Lynchburg, Virginia — a sprint triathlon — for recreation. Less than a year later, she joined Liberty’s club team and has competed since.

For the past two and a half years, Megan Merryman trained under Spencer, and he said a major contributor to her performance had been her work ethic.

During the summer, Megan Merryman trained alone at home in Fairfax, Virginia while Spencer coached her from Richmond, Virginia.

Spencer said the past few months — even since 2016’s spring semester — Megan Merryman’s training brought her to this accomplishment.

“So watching it come together … everything that could have gone right went right,” Spencer said. “I think as a coach, it’s honestly one of the most fulfilling things to see someone’s hard work pay off. … The race was truly a celebration of her hard work.”

Megan Merryman also accomplished her personal record during the race.

Her father, Mike Merryman flew with her to Louisana, and he said she went from 28th after the swim to 14th after the bike then sixth overall when she finished.

“It was just a thrilling race to watch,” Mike Merryman said.

Mike Merryman and Spencer both voiced one quality of Megan Merryman’s they think also played a role in her success — her humility.

“The thing I love about her is every time she wins a race or does really well, she seems ten times more surprised than anybody else,” Spencer said.

Mike Merryman echoed the same thought.

SIXTH  — Merryman was joined by her father, Mike, (right) and coach Parker Spencer (left). Photo provided

SIXTH — Merryman was joined by her father, Mike, (right) and coach Parker Spencer (left). Photo provided

“She often does not bring a lot of attention to herself,” Mike Merryman said. “She wants to give the glory to God.”

Megan Merryman will compete during the spring semester with Liberty’s team, and she has applied for her pro-card in the meantime.

“She still has so much room to grow,” Spencer said. “I don’t even think we’ve tipped the surface with her potential.”

Spencer also competed in a draft-legal triathlon the same morning, earning 11th place overall.

Megan Merryman and Spencer raced Sunday as well in a dualthon — only biking and running — both placing second overall.

The ranking also earned the two a chance to go to the amateur 2017 Dualthon World Championship in Canada next August.

Spencer qualified for the amateur Trialthon World Championship in the Netherlands next
September as well.

“The whole experience was amazing,” Megan Merryman said. “It was probably one of the best weekends of my life.”

Tiller is the social media manager.

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