Cindy Bither
Administrative Assistant
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Professor Tops Age Group at Aquathlon Nationals

Maj. Pieter deHart walks toward shore after the 1,500-meter swim leg of the aquathlon nationals. – Photo courtesy of Maj. Pieter deHart.  
Maj. Pieter deHart walks toward shore after the 1,500-meter swim leg of the aquathlon nationals. – Photo courtesy of Maj. Pieter deHart. 

LEXINGTON, Va., June 1, 2011 – “There’s something to be said for putting yourself on the line and testing your limits. In biology, that’s how true advancements are made, by taking a risk.”

VMI assistant professor of biology Maj. Pieter deHart should know.

On a recent weekend, deHart ran 5 kilometers and then swam 1,500 meters to successfully defend his title as USA Triathlon Aquathlon national champion in his age group, 30-34. He placed fifth overall, third among amateurs, in the event, which took place May 21 in Longmont, Colo. His finish, 39 minutes 29 seconds, qualifies him for a place on Team USA at the 2011 International Triathlon Union Aquathlon World Championships, scheduled for Sept. 7 in Beijing, China.

DeHart placed third in his age group in last year’s world championship event in Budapest, Hungary.

DeHart said competition in events like aquathlon allows him to demonstrate to his students and other cadets the importance of performance. He competes in smaller events as often as every two weeks.

DeHart said his participation also supports other areas of cadet learning.

“I do believe in leading by example. If I maintain a healthy lifestyle – eat well, exercise every day, get enough sleep – then I can walk the talk. I can connect with that physical training aspect of their life at VMI.” VMI emphasizes character growth through the “three-legged stool” – academics, athletics, and military training.

The May 21 aquathlon did not go as planned for any of the competitors. Degraded water quality caused by heavy rain and runoff before the event necessitated the relocation of the swim. Instead of taking the usual format of 2.5-kilometer run, followed by the swim and then another 2.5-kilometer run, the May 21 event began with a 5-kilometer run followed by a three-hour hiatus as contestants were transported to an alternate location for the 1,500-meter swim.

“I was a little taken aback by that,” said deHart, adding that the transitions from run to swim to run are part of the event and are usually included in the final time for each contestant. “I was not as focused as I would have been. My run was slower than I know I can go.

“In aquathlon,” he said, “you have to expect really expect the unexpected.”

DeHart will compete in two aquathlon events this summer. “I’m looking forward to doing the transitions back to back. I can sprint it. It’s much more fast-paced.”

– Sherri Tombarge