Triathlete Adam Sandberg is looking to go the distance
By Anthony D. Alonzo Post-Tribune correspondent June 22, 2013 11:25PM
Triathlete Adam Sandberg, 17, stands near his bicycle on Tuesday, June 18 in Valparaiso. The VHS senior is training and raising money to compete in the fall World Triathlon Championships in London.
Updated: June 22, 2013 11:30PM
Adam Sandberg won’t let anything get between him and his goal of competing in a major international triathlon. Except for the occasional baby deer jumping onto the road, the 17-year-old triathlete hasn’t been tripped up or taken the focus off of his almost daily training.
Working on three sports while soliciting donations are of prime importance to the lean Valparaiso teen, who’s eyeing the World Triathlon Championships, which are held in London in September. Sandberg has gotten support, yet those around him say his endeavors are mainly of a self-motivated nature.
“It doesn’t take a whole lot of poking and prodding of Adam,” his dad, Chris Sandberg, said. “He’s pretty self-motivated. … He thinks on his feet.”
“Triathlons are not the norm of what all the other kids are doing. I think that’s one of the reasons why he likes it, too,” he added.
In and around his hometown, Adam is a fixture on the roads. He’s cycled for 30 miles at a time, run great distances and trained at the Valparaiso High School pool. (He often exceeds the Olympic distances of a 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer cycling and 10-kilometer run.)
He mostly rides independently and even christened his first solo effort at age 13 by escaping with just a broken arm after braking and flipping over a small deer that had leaped in front of his bicycle from the greenery.
Sandberg seems to be among a rare breed of teenager who is alert at dawn and never needs Mom, Dad or Brother to help wake him. His mom, Lisa Sandberg, said her son may seem like an all-business kind of boy, but he’s a “joy” to be around because he has a good attitude.
Try to figure out this self-starter through the lens of psychology or motivational theories and Sandberg will offer an answer with a just-do-it kind of simplicity.
“(Triathlon preparation) is just something I like to do,” Adam Sandberg said. “I’m pretty good at it, so…”
Sandberg pursued an interest in BMX racing as a kid. Later, he focused on speed — cycling over paved roads instead of survival on dirt tracks. School cross country and swim programs helped him to identify other strong suits.
“I like the swim,” Adam Sandberg said. “That’s probably my strongest event because I swim in high school. It’s the easiest for me.”
To better balance his time, Sandberg’s had to make some decisions that might not appeal to some coaches. This year he’s dropped cross country to focus solely on triathlon training.
Sometimes he will share tri prep time with his best friend Kevin Mangel, 18, of Valparaiso.
“I was always trying to catch him,” Sandberg said of his buddy. “This year he hasn’t been training as much as I have, so I caught up to him finally.”
During the warmer months, he can be found at events such as Leon’s in Hammond and generally sticks to a Midwestern tri circuit. Sandberg is presently preparing for the Morse Park Summer Triathlon, a major sanctioned event coming up on June 29 in Noblesville.
“My parents both ran when I was growing up,” said Adam. “(In junior high) one of my good friends started doing some of the kids’ triathlons and after that we moved up once we got old enough and kind of built from that.”
According to his family, Adam hits the books pretty hard during the school year. In the summer, he steps up his hours working at Valparaiso’s Extra Mile fitness gear store, fitting shoes and giving advice. And anyone wanting to catch up with him during the break will have to get penciled in between other responsibilities like lawn maintenance at his relatives’ farm in LaPorte.
High age-group rankings at USA Triathlon nationals paved the way for his application to attend the championships in Great Britain. But as the saying goes, “money changes everything.” The privilege of going to the English event came with the responsibility of raising funds to help pay for specialized gear, travel and lodging.
In two months, however, the Sandbergs reached their fundraising goal of $7,000 with the help of www.gofundme.com. One person Adam hardly knew gave $1,500 in matching funds to the effort. He made a zany video with his 10-year-old brother Eli to thank the contributor.
With a smile, Adam said a certain event set in London’s Hyde Park will be taking priority for him over happenings in Valparaiso from Sept. 10 to 17.
“The World Triathlon Championships are the same days as Popcorn Fest,” said Adam, who turns 18 on Nov. 4. “Until then I look to not injure myself and keep my training up.”
For more information about Adam’s training, or to contribute to his World Triathlon Championship fund, visit gofundme.com/2lebig