MAIDENS – As the winner of last year’s USA Triathlon (USAT) Youth & Junior Championships national title in her age division, Andrea Rogerson was expecting to start first this year in the Age 11 female division.

Previously, each age group was led by the top 5 triathletes from the previous year’s race, so Andrea’s strategy was to focus on the 12-year-olds ahead of her and try to catch up with the fastest girl in the Age 12 group.

That all changed shortly before the race.

At packet pickup, the Rogersons learned that starting order this year had instead been randomized, and Andrea, whom they found out was instead starting third-to-last, now had to pass 43 other competitors in order to defend her title.

She already had the challenge of facing mainly older competition – although Andrea is 10, the triathlon competitors race the age that they’ll be on Dec. 31, and Andrea’s birthday is Dec. 16 – and now she was faced with the task of completely re-envisioning her race strategy, which she and her family had been working on for months.

She responded by passing several competitors in the opening swimming segment with an age-group best time of 2:59…

…zooming out to a blistering average pace of 19.57 miles per hour in the cycling stretch…

…and then averaging 6:55 min/mile in the running stretch to overcome the odds and repeat as national champion in resilient fashion with a winning time of 32:29.

Andrea, the youngest of three, has not been alone in her successes. Both of her sisters Annika and Anneliese have also excelled on the swimming and triathlon circuits.

Fifteen-year-old Anneliese – who as a freshman this past winter won a regional swimming championship in the 100 breaststroke and also earned third-place finishes at the VHSL Class 2 state swim meet for Goochland High School – joined her sister in earning a podium finish by capturing second in the Age 15 female division at the USAT youth nationals, which were held Aug. 3-4 in West Chester, Ohio.

Like her younger sister Andrea, Anneliese – the oldest of the three - earned the top swim time in her age group. She averaged a biking pace of 20.51 MPH.

Anneliese said she had to work really hard this summer because, in May, she competed in the East Coast Triathlon Festival (ECTF), and she said she didn’t do as well as she wanted to do.

“I decided I was going to make a change, and so the entire summer I worked very, very hard,” Anneliese said, “and then at nationals, it felt like I had a breakthrough – it felt really good.”

While Annika, 12, didn’t reach the podium at nationals, she experienced a different kind of victory.

In the cycling stretch of the triathlon she endured a bike crash in the first turn, sustaining a bloody and swollen elbow and also dropping a chain that she had to change all by herself. Her brake also shifted over and got stuck onto the wheel for the remainder of the stretch. But Annika – persevering through not just the final five miles of cycling with a hairline fracture in her elbow and a hobbled bicycle, but also through the running stretch that followed – finished the entire race.

“It meant a lot,” Annika said, “because I knew that I could have done much better than I did, but I did the best that I could…I’m really happy that I was able to finish in the national championships and I didn’t just stop and I just kept going.”

Her family – who didn’t know she had crashed and gotten hurt until seeing her in the medical tent after the race – was proud of her efforts.

“It makes her a champion that she got up after she fell on the bike and she kept going,” Anneliese said of Annika. “I was really proud of her for that.”

Trio’s triathlon journey begins

The Rogerson family’s first triathlon event was the Power Kids Triathlon on May 21, 2016 at the Shady Grove YMCA. Because of that day’s torrential rainstorm, the competitors only took on the running and swimming stretches, but the girls not only powered through the heavy rain – they really enjoyed the experience, and they learned a lot about how people take triathlons really seriously. All three also did well in their age groups – Andrea took second, Annika was sixth and Anneliese placed third.

“I was so surprised,” Anneliese said of getting her first triathlon podium finish. “I was just watching the awards because we had finished the triathlon and I heard my name and I was so happy...That’s when I knew that I wanted to be a triathlete.”

The girls went on to participate in two other youth triathlons in the summer of 2016 - the REV3 Summer Sizzling triathlon on July 21 and the Virginia Home for Boys and Girls Youth (VHBG) triathlon put on by Endorphin Fitness on Aug. 20 - and after their summer triathlon experiences, they joined the Endorphin Fitness Youth triathlon team year-round.

The Rogersons first attended an Endorphin Fitness (EF) training camp that was held on a Saturday a few weeks before their first race, and they fell in love with the coaches there. Training year-round, they have cycling, swimming and running practices weekly. Anneliese is on the EF high performance team and does long bike rides on Saturdays. Her coach is Michael Harlow, EF’s head coach and founder; Andrea and Annika’s EF Coaches are Sally Fraser and James Crabb.

“They helped us realize that it’s not about getting the trophy or winning the medal,” Annika said of their EF Coaches. “It’s about trying to persevere when you’re really tired and you have pain in your legs and you’re like, ‘I can’t do anymore.’”

The Rogersons shared that the program and its coaches teach the girls that nothing is impossible while also emphasizing the importance of hard work in achieving their goals. The family praised head coach Harlow as an amazing coach, complimenting how he’s taught and inspired the girls to believe in themselves and to “Be More and Live Red.” Once a week, Harlow inspires the athletes with inspirational messages he sends out (Anneliese’s favorite is One Rock at a Time) that help them with a variety of elements related to practicing and competing, like how to train better in the heat, and how to create a race plan.

“He tries to motivate people – he’s really good at it,” Anneliese said of Coach Harlow, “and he just always knows how to push people and let them do more than what they think that they’re capable of, and that helps you get better.”

Training as a family

This summer, the Rogersons frequented Powhatan State Park with their five bicycles to train together as a family. In 2017, their parents became USA swim coaches to allow them to train together and swim as a family.

They created a swim team called “R3,” and together they train the girls and take them to USA swim meets as unattached swimmers.

The Rogersons draw inspiration from the Rocky movies – mostly Rocky III, because he lost “the eye of the tiger” and had to get it back, they said – and they will watch the films before any big race.

With all the races they take on, the Rogersons will go home and talk about them, reflecting on the things the girls did well while also learning to improve on aspects like mental toughness, staying focused and persisting up until the very end of a race.

That was something Annika did recently; learning she had to be careful going around a hairpin turn like the one in which she crashed during nationals, Annika safely navigated that kind of turn in the recent EF VHBG triathlon.

All three sisters like a different stretch of the triathlons. For Andrea, it’s the running stretch that closes out the race. For Annika, it’s the swimming – early on, she was the best swimmer of the three sisters, inspiring her siblings to get better. Her parents described how she’s able to naturally feel the water.

And for Anneliese, it’s the biking – at the beginning of when she was with Endorphin Fitness, she said she was in the back, she wasn’t trying very hard, she didn’t really want to be there and she didn’t really want to bike.

“Then I just decided that I was going to embrace biking and really, really try very hard to get better,” Anneliese said. Now, she’s leading the group, “and it was all because my teammates motivated me and I decided I didn’t want to be in the back anymore, and now I love biking.”

Swimming to success

Anneliese, Annika and Andrea all started swimming around the same time for The Federal Club in 2013 – Andrea was 4, Annika was 6 and Anneliese was 9 – before they joined the Goochland YMCA Manta Rays that year. They’ve been swimming for the Goochland Y ever since.

All three sisters continued to set team records this summer with the Manta Rays – coached by Helen Brown – during the Greater Richmond Aquatic League season. Before she defended her USAT Youth Nationals title, Andrea enjoyed a strong showing at the GRAL Champs meet, becoming a triple winner in the varsity 9-10 200 freestyle mixed relay, the senior varsity 50 butterfly and the senior varsity 100 freestyle.

She and her teammates Luke Salser, Ryan Johnson and Alex Horst earlier in the season set a new GRAL league record in the mixed 9-10 200 medley relay with a collective time of 2:26.66 in Goochland’s meet against Raintree.

“We were all trying to go for it; before we went, we were all trying to pump each other up to try to go as fast as we can,” Andrea said. “Once we got out of the pool, we asked for our times and once we realized that we beat it by three seconds, we all were so happy and we jumped around.”

“The Manta Rays – it’s a really good time,” Anneliese said. “Everybody’s a team; they all want the best for you. They’re all very nice.”

The sisters have inspired their teammates, several of whom they’ve grown up with in their six years on the team, and the Rogersons have loved supporting the Goochland YMCA, and being a part of the Manta Rays, which will begin their fall-winter season Sept. 3. Also this summer, Andrea qualified for the Virginia Swimming Zone team and represented Virginia Swimming against the neighboring states in the Eastern Zone Championship.

Annika has also made the Zone team, achieved top 10 all-time awards and helped her relay team achieve a Virginia state record when she was at NOVA.

“We were like: Let’s try and get the record…we all really wanted to get it and we all tried and pushed as hard as we could,” Annika said, “and we got it.”

During the school year, the girls contribute to the Goochland School sports teams, as Anneliese continues to compete for Goochland High School Swimming, and Annika will swim for Goochland Middle School this year.

On placing at states her freshman year, Anneliese said: “I worked really hard – I was swimming twice a day…and I wanted to get third in states, and everybody believed in me, but at the beginning I didn’t believe in myself, and then I finally learned to believe in myself, and that I believed I could do it, and I did it…Coach (Ed) Boyle helped me learn to believe in myself.”

Both Anneliese and Annika – who both said they want to get better at running in triathlons – are on Goochland’s school cross country and track and field teams. All three sisters are also on the honor roll; Anneliese’s grade point average is currently 4.1.

Everybody’s motivating you

The achievement that Andrea has been most proud of receiving thus far is EF’s 2017 LIVE RED Youth plaque, awarded annually to one boy and one girl. Andrea achieved the award after always attending practice with a smile on her face and always working hard. Last year, Andrea also got the Breakthrough Award from Endorphin Fitness by winning at the youth national championships in her first time ever competing in them.

This year alone, Andrea, Annika and Anneliese have participated in the East Coast Triathlon Festival (May 5), the REV3 Salute to the Military triathlon (May 25), the Water Country USA triathlon (June 1), the Endorphin Fitness Splash and Dash Series (four races), the Columbia Kids triathlon (July 21) the USAT Youth Nationals (Aug. 4) and the EF VHBG triathlon (Aug. 17).

With the triathlons, Annika likes that you get to experience three different sports – swimming, running and biking – at the same time. Andrea likes doing all three of them instead of just one because it “makes it more fun” and “mixes things up a little bit.”

And Anneliese likes the feeling that, when you start the triathlon, everybody’s motivating you – and when you cross the finish line, it’s not just like a swim race when you get out of the pool and you’re about to do it again for the next event.

When you finish a triathlon, you really feel like you’ve accomplished something, she said.

“And you’re with all your teammates and they’re all congratulating you,” Anneliese said. “It’s competitive, but it’s really a good time.”

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