Strong legs. Strong heart. Strong everything. Dedication to training. The ability to with stand discomfort for a given period of time. And speed, to boot.
When we think of a champion in the world of triathlon, these elements come to mind. And certainly the South Dakota Triathlon Association‘s season champs, Brigitte Setness and Matt Decker have all of these things. But they also have one more element critical to success in any venture: balance.
Decker and Setness actually wandered into the world of triathlon two very different but still common ways.
Decker grew up near Beresford where he attended high school. He tried a couple of sports, but nothing really stuck. He went on to attend and graduate from SDSU and went to work near Alcester, his current hometown, as a mechanical engineer. And he hunted and fished, like he’s always loved to do.
When a friend at work began to compete in triathlon, Decker took note. His friend invited him to join him, and Decker complied. After all, it would help prepare him for some spot-and-stalk hunting west of the river.
So with his hybrid bike (like all legends ride in their first tri) he took on Siouxperman and found himself well and smiling at the end.
The seed was planted.
After replacing his hybrid with a road bike, Decker continued to dabble in sprints. Two years later, the same ambitious buddy from work convinced Decker to sign up for the Twin Cities triathlon. “We did it once, and that was it,” states Decker. Enough said.
This year Decker proved to be a jack-of-all trades in the sport, placing in the top ten in Madison, taking time off to battle a bug, and then winning the last three events of the season. His mantra of, “It could always be worse,” certainly pushed him through some of his more uncomfortable moments in the season. He hopes to tackle more SDTA events in the future.
Meanwhile, Decker will settle back into life which includes his other favorite hobbies: hanging out with his family (wife, Larissa; four-year-old daughter Laney; and soon-to-be-born baby boy); and hunting and fishing. He aims to just enjoy the ride that triathlon has given him so far. His laid-back demeanor coupled with his overall physical strength tells us he will do this quite well.
Decker’s short career in triathlon still has given him some great race experiences. His best experience so far took place in Watertown, the final race of the SDTA season. “I’ve never been so nervous before a race,” he states. When we spoke with him a few days later, he was clearly still riding on cloud nine.
Setness’s beginning with triathlon started on the sofa of her parent’s couch in Stickney, South Dakota when she saw a triathlon on tv (most likely the World Championships in Kona).
And again, a seed was planted.
Setness went on to attend school in Stickney and, like most small-town kids in South Dakota, participate in every extra-curricular event possible from track and field to yearbook staff. Setness started running cross-country in college and shortly thereafter ran her first marathon. The love of running captured her, and she aimed to run a marathon in every state (so far she’s ran over 30 marathons).
Setness went on to try a sprint triathlon and give it a rest for a while before she signed up for and completed a full-on Ironman (yes, she’s that ambitious). She’s completed two Ironmans to date.
This year the SDTA series gave Setness just one more way to mix up her training and enjoy this sport she loves. Plus she earned a nice pocketful of cash.
Despite her youth, Setness has a handful of race experiences that stick out in her mind and have helped shape her as a triathlete. In particular, the Sioux Falls marathon a few years back, leaves a mark in her memory, when she began the race not feeling well and ending feeling even worse. Most likely she’d been victimized by a stomach bug, and she spent some time in the med tent shortly after crossing the finish line. Still, she continues to lace up and run (or bike and swim as the deed may call for the day).
Triathletes and nontriathletes alike often wonder what gets accomplished athletes through the most difficult parts of training or a race. What makes a person keep going? For Setness, her faith plays a major role in continuing forward. In long races–marathons and Ironmans–Setness will write the simple reference “Phil 4:13” on her hand, reminding her that her strength does not come from herself. “When I feel like I can’t go any further, I know I’m not alone,” she states.
Sounds like the advice of a champ.
When Setness isn’t working towards her goals or teaching elementary school students about fitness at her P.E. job for the Tea school district, she prefers to hang out with her (uber supportive) husband Cale.
Both of these athletes have proven to have what a champ needs to rise to the top. They put together solid races in all three disciplines, and while both train hard, they also enjoy life outside of triathlon. We sure enjoyed watching them race and look forward to seeing who else can rise to the top of the SDTA series next year.