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Ford Center for the Fine Arts

Class of 1977 Alumni Triathletes Compete in Abu Dhabi

Knox College classmates Bryn Douds ’77 and Doug Hill ’77 completed an impressive feat finishing 14th and 16th, respectively, in the 2022 World Triathlon Championships in Abu Dhabi as part of the U.S.A. Triathlon team. 

Douds and Hill admit that they don’t recall meeting one another during their time at the College. It wouldn’t be until their 40th class reunion that the two would get to know one another as they both signed up for the Homecoming 5k. Hill recalls feeling confident that he would do well in the race, but he was continually challenged by a stranger. “He kept chasing me the whole way. I thought, ‘Who is this guy?’”

The pair got to know each other after the race and found a common interest in triathlons. 

During their time at Knox, the College had fewer than 1,000 students. Hill was studying for a major in economics and biology, while Douds was focused on mathematics. Hill was invested in racing early on, joining the College’s cross-country team. His training led to him being undefeated by any other Knox runner for four consecutive years while setting multiple Knox records. “I felt like I was addicted to the adrenaline from the races,” Hill said. 

Hill started competing in national triathlons in the early 1980s. In each triathlon, racers complete a one-mile swim, 25-mile bike ride, and a six-mile run. Racers who do well enough in yearly competitions are invited to national championships, and national winners are invited to world championships. 

Hill traveled to Hawaii in 1988 for a race, but suffered an injury that persisted for a year. Once recovered, he began racing in triathlons around the country six to seven times a year. 

For Douds, the journey to becoming a triathlon racer was much different. He played bassoon and spent much of his time in the Ford Center for Fine Arts while studying at Knox. Douds played intramural ping pong when he was recruited away from the pinball machines, but he says the closest he came to a sporting field was conducting the Pep Band at football games. 

He would not fall in love with running until his son asked then-60-year-old Douds to take part in a triathlon with him. Starting a career in this sport is uncommon at that age, but Douds began doing laps at the local pool and building up endurance through regular training. In his first race, he placed fourth in his 60 to 65 age group. Racing soon blossomed into a passion. 

“Now, I do a couple races a year. It’s not nearly as many as Doug,” Douds said. “I always make sure to do at least one in Austin, Texas, since my daughter lives in Dallas. It’s been fun for me.”

After finding their shared passion, the pair began to race together. In November 2022, they traveled together to Abu Dhabi after qualifying for the world competition—Hill’s 14th time at the world level and Douds’ first. They have both already qualified for the 2023 competition in Spain.

“We live on opposite ends of the country. The few times we‘ve seen each other since graduation is at national or world championships and Homecoming,” Hill said.

Hill hopes that he can continue to earn an invitation to compete on the international level so that he can seize the opportunity to travel worldwide. For him, the journey is more important than placing high or earning a medal. On the other hand, Douds hopes to place in the top 10 in 2023. “I certainly don’t want anyone older than 75 beating me.”

To be able to race alongside a classmate and a friend was a highlight from their most recent race in Abu Dhabi. Developing a relationship as racing partners later in life instead of on their alma mater’s campus has been an unique experience, they said. 

“We're some of the rare people in the world that look forward to getting older,” Hill said. “It means we are that much closer to racing once again.” 

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Printed on Saturday, April 1, 2023