Zupan Has A Passion For Triathlons - The Missourian: Sports

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Zupan Has A Passion For Triathlons

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Posted: Saturday, June 21, 2014 12:00 pm

By Jason Peake

Missourian Sports Writer

Matt Zupan was hooked from the start.

From the first time he competed in a triathlon, Zupan knew the grueling endurance event was just his thing.

What others see as extreme or nearly impossible, Zupan sees as exhilarating and satisfying.

“I fell in love with the competition,” he recalled.

A decade after he first gave it a try, the 18-year-old former Washington resident who now lives in Wildwood has a strong passion for competing in arguably the toughest single athletic event out there, the triathlon, which features swimming, cycling and running in succession.

“You can tell it really lights a fire in him,” Matt’s mother Lori Zupan said. “He lives for the races.”

And he’s having success, too. Earlier this month Zupan took first place in his age division at the 2014 USA Triathlon Long Course National Championships in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Zupan took first place in the 19-and-under division of the Half-Iron Triathlon, finishing in 4:48.33.  

His 1.2-mile swim took just over 32 minutes, while he finished the 56-mile cycling event in about 2 1/2 hours. He completed the final 13.1-mile run in just over an hour and 42 minutes. The second-place finisher was 16 minutes behind Zupan. For winning his age division, Zupan received a medal and a T-shirt that reads, “National Champion.” That’s not all. With the win Zupan qualified to compete in the world championships next summer in Sweden.

“That will be fun,” he said. “I have to talk to my mom about it, but I think I’m going to go.”

While other kids his age are obsessed with baseball, football, basketball or soccer, Zupan chose a different outlet for his athletic endeavors.

So how did Zupan end up competing in triathlons?

Call it a desire to compete — against others and against himself. And for a time, he didn’t have many other options.

When Zupan enrolled at Heritage Classical Christian Academy just outside of St. Louis several years ago he came to a realization. The school has no athletic programs. With that, Zupan found his own athletic challenges outside of school in the form of triathlons.

“I was looking for something athletic outside of school,” he recalled. “I thought triathlons would be fun.”

Zupan had remembered competing in one back when he was just a little guy in Washington.

Matt, the son of Lori and the late Dr. Andrew Zupan, along with sisters Sydney and Caroline, lived in Washington for several years, first arriving when Matt was 5 years old. Although they moved away about three years ago, it was Washington where Matt competed in his first mini-triathlon.

“I was really young, 7 or 8,” Matt recalled. “My twin sister (Sydney) did it, too. It was a small one put on by the YMCA and we crossed the line together holding hands. It was a lot of fun to finish.”

He never forgot that feeling.

Zupan really got into triathlons when he was a freshman in high school when organized team sports were out of the question.

“I’ve been doing them regularly ever since,” he said. “And you meet a lot of people and everyone is always really nice. And I have a love of running. That’s my favorite aspect of it. I’d say the running is probably the toughest part, though.”

If anyone has ever watched or attempted a triathlon or Iron Man competition, they surely know it’s not easy to do. Simply put, it takes a lot of endurance, strength and willpower to finish one.

To get prepared for the long, strenuous event, Zupan works out often.

“I try and do around 15-20 hours a week of training, but it was less during the school year,” Zupan said. “In the summer, I try to do more than that. I do a lot of swimming, biking and running. That’s what I do — I swim, bike, and run.”

Completing a triathlon isn’t easy. It could be described as painful.

“It’s brutal,” Zupan said. “By the time I get off the bike my legs are pretty dead. And then you still have a really long run ahead of you.”

So what keeps Zupan motivated throughout the process?

“I just try to think about the finish and how good it will feel to finish,” he said. “I think about my mom and how much time, effort and money she’s spent to help me. I never want to let her down by not finishing. So I think about that, too. And I just think about how hard I’ve trained. I know if I’ve had some tough workouts I should be able to finish.”

Zupan has traveled all over the Midwest to participate in various events. And he’s had a lot of success and some memorable experiences, too.

For example, he signed up for an event in Ohio that featured a marathon 26.2-mile run. He usually competes in the events that include a run of between 10-13 miles.

“I had not trained that much for it either,” he said with a laugh. “I didn’t think I’d finish. But then I actually met someone else from St. Louis while I was running. We started talking during the race and now we’re friends. It was the easiest run I had because we were just talking to each other almost the whole time, about 22 miles.”

Zupan recently competed in Tennessee and of course, he won the event in Michigan. Zupan admitted some of his friends question why he’d want to put his body through such punishment.

“Some of them think I’m absolutely crazy or just nuts,” Zupan said laughing.

Other friends have admitted they’re pretty impressed.

Matt’s mother Lori is his biggest fan.

Lori admitted she and her late husband had some reservations about the triathlons when their son first showed an interest. There was a concern that the pounding his body would take could stunt his growth. An X-ray proved he was done growing. Lori’s been supportive ever since.

“I think he was looking for a challenge,” Lori said. “So we reluctantly agreed. We went along for the ride.”

Lori added it’s been fun to see her son put forth a big effort toward something and then have his hard work pay off.

“He works really hard at it and he really enjoys it,” she said. “It’s nice to see a kid his age find something they’re passionate about. He’s had some success and it’s been a lot of fun for the family to follow along.”

Matt has now graduated from high school and he’ll attend Pepperdine University in California in the fall.

Matt said no matter where he lives, triathlons will continue to be a big part of his life.

He was hooked from the start. And he doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon.

“I think it’s something I can do throughout my lifetime,” he said. “That’s something else that appeals to me about the sport. You never really have to give it up. Hopefully I’ll do them as long as I can.”


Area Scoreboard

62nd Annual Borgia Pepsi Thanksgiving Tournament

Blue Division

Pool 1

McCluer North



Pool 2

Cardinal Ritter


Rockwood Summit

Gold Division

Pool 1




Pool 2


North Tech


Monday, Nov. 24

CBC 77, Washington 52

Tuesday, Nov. 25

Cardinal Ritter vs. Rockwood Summit, PPD

Washington 63, Soldan 62

Borgia 83, Union 50

Wednesday, Nov. 26

Carnahan 71, Normandy 46

Pacific 64, Rockwood Summit 22

North Tech 67, Union 37

Thursday, Nov. 27

McCluer North 95 Carnahan 68

CBC 82, Soldan 55

Borgia 50, North Tech 45

Friday, Nov. 28

McCluer North 93, Normandy 39

Pacific 70, Cardinal Ritter 57

Saturday, Nov. 29

Blue Consolation — Rockwood Summit 47, Normandy 38

Gold Consolation — Soldan 78, Union 59

Gold Third Place — North Tech 63, Washington 57

Blue Third Place — Cardinal Ritter 71, Carnahan 46

Blue Championship — McCluer North 64, Pacific 58 (OT)

Gold Championship — CBC 67, Borgia 66

Boys Basketball

Monday, Dec. 8

Lutheran S 64, St. Clair 48

Borgia 61, Carnahan 51

Tuesday, Dec. 9

Lafayette 44, Washington 35

Friday, Dec. 12

Potosi 72, St. Clair 45

*Washington 69, Ft. Zumwalt North 65

Montgomery Co 62, New Haven 61

*St. Mary’s at Borgia    6:45 p.m.

Bourbon 75, Union 74

Glendale 63, Pacific 46

Saturday, Dec. 13

New Haven 46, Barat 40

Nixa 56, Pacific 46

Tuesday, Dec. 16

*Pacific 70, New Haven 35

*Hermann 67, St. Clair 49

*Ft. Zumwalt South 61, Washington 50

*Union 81, St. James 74

Friday, Dec. 19

*Owensville at St. Clair    4 p.m.

Washington vs. Parkway Central, GAC/Suburban Shootout, St. Charles Family Arena, 5:30 p.m.

*St. James at New Haven    6 p.m.

*Pacific 76, Union 57

Saturday, Dec. 20

Sullivan Shootout

Owensville vs. Rockwood Summit, 11:30 a.m.

Lindbergh 67, St. Clair 46

Jefferson City vs. Jackson, 2:30 p.m.

Washington 56, Lutheran South 54

Poplar Bluff 59, Borgia 49

Sullivan vs. Affton, 7 p.m.

Girls Basketball

Saturday, Dec. 6

Cor Jesu 63, Borgia 60

New Haven 46, Moberly 39

Monday, Dec. 8

Pacific 73, Rolla 40

St. Clair 68, Dixon 37

Washington 54, New Haven 15

Tuesday, Dec. 9

*Borgia 59, Rosati-Kain 38

Union 53, Northwest 44

Thursday, Dec. 11

*Borgia 60, Notre Dame 53

Union 81, Bourbon 53

Friday, Dec. 12

New Haven 45, Principia 30

*Washington 59, Ft. Zumwalt North 32

Saturday, Dec. 13

West Plains 76, Pacific 37

Monday, Dec. 15

*Pacific 46, New Haven 28

*St. Clair 59, Hermann 50

*St. James 64, Union 37

Sullivan Tournament

Cuba 48, Principia 27

Borgia 68, Patriettes 29

Sullivan 56, Pattonville 43

Owensville 78, Farmington 54

Wednesday, Dec. 17

Sullivan Tournament

Farmington 61, Pattonville 39

Sullivan 68, Owensville 64

Principia 55, St. Louis Patriettes 42

Borgia 56, Cuba 38

Thursday, Dec. 18

*St. James 72, New Haven 21

*Union 49, Pacific 48

Friday, Dec. 19

Francis Howell 55, Washington 48

Sullivan Tournament

Seventh Place — Pattonville vs. St. Louis Patriettes, 4 p.m.

Consolation — Farmington vs. Principia, 5:30 p.m.

Third Place — Owensville vs. Cuba, 7 p.m.

Championship — Borgia 62, Sullivan 35

Saturday, Dec. 20

Union at Waynesville    5 p.m.


Monday, Dec. 8

Maplewood 48, Borgia 30

Brentwood 47, Borgia 36

Winfield 48, St. Clair 36

St. Clair 42, St. James 40

Tuesday, Dec. 9

Pacific 55, North County 10

Jackson 63, Washington 12

Farmington 63, Washington 6

Wednesday, Dec. 10

Borgia 36, Lutheran St. Charles 34

Winfield 54, Borgia 30

Thursday, Dec. 11

Union 72, Ft. Zumwalt East 9

Union 52, Principia 30

Union 54, Winfield 27

Saturday, Dec. 13

Union Tournament    9 a.m.

Borgia at McCluer S-Berkeley Tny    9 a.m.

Pacific at Farmington Tny    9 a.m.

Tuesday, Dec. 16

Owensville 61, St. Clair 16

Union 48, Owensville 27

Union 65, St. Clair 18

Friday, Dec. 19

Washington at Raytown S Tny    TBA

Union at Cape Central Tny    TBA

Pacific at Ft. Zumwalt E Tny    TBA

Saturday, Dec. 20

Washington at Raytown S Tny    TBA

Union at Cape Central Tny    TBA

Pacific at Ft. Zumwalt E Tny    TBA

Girls Swimming

Monday, Dec. 8

Washington at Eureka    4:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Dec. 9

Washington at Nerinx Hall    4 p.m.

LSC/OFC 134, Borgia 101, St. Dominic 83

Monday, Dec. 15

Borgia at Notre Dame (Forest Park)    4 p.m.

Kennedy 88, Washington 84

Wednesday, Dec. 17

Lindbergh 128, Washington 48

*Conference Games