Grapevine teen triathlete hopes to compete in 2016 Olympic Games

06/01/2012 11:39 PM

11/12/2014 2:36 PM

The thought crossed William Huffman's mind when he was a young child, just as it does the mind of perhaps every young child at some point.

"I'd love to be in the Olympics."

But what sport would get him there never occurred to him until he was in high school. And he might have never guessed triathlon.

"I'm just really fortunate to have found this sport and be doing well in it," he said. "I'm pleased with where I am. I just never thought it would be in triathlon."

Today, two days after his graduation from Grapevine High School, Huffman takes another step in a process he hopes will eventually take him to the 2016 Games.

He's entered in the Dallas Pan American Cup, an International Triathlon Union event (noon, elite women; 2:45 p.m., elite men) in Irving. The 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike and 10K run starts at the Dallas Marriott Las Colinas with a world-class field that includes the top-ranked American triathlete, Manuel Huerta.

It's an elite event, but Huffman, 18, has competed in that kind of event before. He's ranked in the top 130 in the world. What's different this time is he's close to home.

"Between graduation and this race, I'm extremely excited to be able to race on home turf," he said. "That's something that's a rare occurrence in these kinds of races. After all the places that I've traveled to race in these competitions, to have it practically in my backyard is a great feeling."

So this isn't an ordinary weekend for a graduating senior.

But for Huffman and his development in triathlon, it will soon become part of ordinary life.

He has at least five more races scheduled before the world championships in October in New Zealand. At the end of the month, he'll head to London to train with the national team and race there. Then there's training in Spain and competitions in the Netherlands, Hungary, Switzerland and Buffalo, N.Y.

The aim is to gain experience and build rankings points on the way to the 2016 Olympic Team Trials.

"My rank going into the race, based on points, puts me in fourth right now," Huffman said. "Of course, a podium finish is always great. I'd love to get on the podium. You can qualify for Olympic development teams based on podiums, so that is definitely something that I would be pleased with. But there are some great athletes that are showing up for this race. It'll be competitive."

His coach, Greg Mueller, doesn't need Huffman beating the world right now. He needs him developing.

"He has a ton of potential," Mueller said. "I know he's excited. But we don't want to be peaking in Dallas. The culmination of the year is the world championships. We want to be peaking there. Peaking at a race in May or June can disrupt that. I know he's excited. This is a great race. I want to see him do well, but my eye is on worlds at the end of the year."

Huffman said he became a triathlete by accident. An injury kept him out of cross country as a high school freshman, so he joined the swim team to keep in shape.

He was so outstanding in swimming, his mother -- "just joking around one day," Huffman said -- suggested competitive cycling.

Before he knew it, he was in a triathlon.

"I just really loved it," he said. "So I actually ran into a triathlon coach shortly after that, and he started coaching me, and things went from there."

And from Irving this weekend, perhaps to Rio de Janeiro in four years.

Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407

Twitter: @calexmendez

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