Leap Day Sports - The Triathlife of Jesse Thomas

Scholarship Winners!

Heyo Crazy Ass Fans!

Remember last year when I announced Lauren and I would be supporting two first year pro’s this year with a scholarship? Well, though it took much longer to finish than expected, I’m stoked to announce that it did in fact it finally happen!

I received about 60 applicants from many many many deserving, qualified, ambitious, interesting, and talented first year professionals. I spent hours reading, interviewing, debating, going back and forth with Lauren, until I finally came to the decision to make three awards of $4000 each to these totally awesome winners. In no particular order, they are:

Alissa Doehla – Tony Smoragiewicz – Allison Linnell

I’ve put their bios and some quick thoughts below. Be sure to follow them on all the social interwebs and stuff because they are awesome.

I feel incredibly lucky to have had the support during my career that enabled me to eventually create this scholarship. I was overwhelmed by the quality of candidates, and the process of selecting them was extremely difficult. Ultimately, Alissa, Allison, and Tony struck me not only with their athletic talent and ambition, but also a natural professional and intellectual approach to the sport—something which I believe is just as important to ‘making it.’ Maybe most importantly, I believe each of them can and will have a positive impact on others in their respective communities through their outreach and personality. I’m honored to have them be the recipients of this award.

Alissa Doehla – Tryon, N.C. – Website, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook

BioAlissa McKaig Doehla is a US professional triathlete and former professional runner from New Haven, IN. Alissa ran professionally from 2009-2015 and was a member of the 2011 Bronze Medal winning World XC team and 2011 World Marathon team. She placed 8th in the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials with a time of 2:31:56 and has run 15:28 for 5,000m and 32:14 for 10,000m. Alissa raced her first ever triathlon in January 2016 and received her elite card in August 2016 after winning the Overall Female USAT Age Group National Championship title.

Alissa lives and trains in Tryon, NC with her husband Kyle and their Great Dane Frankie. She spends her free time searching for her constantly misplaced goggles and seeking out the best local breakfast joints post workout.

Why I Chose Alissa: Clearly, Alissa brings a ton of talent to the sport – an All American, and a 2:31 marathon! What I also liked about Alissa is she has set up her training environment and support network (including her husband, Kyle) to maximize the potential of success. Having that support and lifestyle is the key way many elites get started before they are at a level they can support themselves. Plus, she was fun, kind, and energetic during our interview. She’s already shown some of her potential this year with podium results at a few professional 70.3s!

Tony Smoragiewicz – Rapid City, S.D. – Website, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook

Bio: Tony is grew up in Rapid City, S.D. just east of Mt Rushmore on the eastern side of the Black Hills. His father was a collegiate swimmer and a swim coach, naturally Tony learned how to swim while also discovering his “true love” of running. He competed in draft legal triathlon as a junior, eventually winning the 2012 USAT Junior Elite Nationals and ITU Junior Pan American Championships.

Tony then put his triathlon career on pause while going to the University of Michigan, where he received a degree in aerospace engineering while simultaneously becoming a NCAA D1 All American in the 5k with a PB of 13:55.

Tony’s goal is to place top ten at the 2020 Olympics while racing on a bike that he helped design as an aerospace engineer at Specialized Bicycles. In addition, in the future he’d love to use his experience and lessons learned to help the next generation of triathletes, especially in my home state of South Dakota.

Why I Chose Tony: Well obviously I saw a bit of myself in Tony – engineer, NCAA All American in track. I know how hard it is to do both of those things at the same time. But Tony, unlike me, actually has a bunch of swimming and high level triathlon in his background, and he’s starting his pro career about 7 years earlier than I did! I also really appreciated Tony’s want/need to balance his life with some engineering work at Specialized. For a recent grad, he’s got a super professional approach that is rare. He obviously has a ton of potential to rise to the very top of the sport and I’m happy to provide a small boost along the way.

Allison Linnell – Boulder, CO. – Website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram

Bio: Allison Linnell is a former professional cyclist turned triathlete living in Miami, FL. She began as a runner and ran at the University of Washington on the cross country and track teams. After a string of injuries, Allison decided it was time for a change. Her senior year of college, Allison decided to pursue her life-long goal of completing an Ironman triathlon. She signed up for a half Ironman and was able to qualify for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, HI! Allison completed the Ironman and even won her age group.

Allison still had sour feelings about running and decided to start focusing more on the bike. In 2015 Allison raced for a UCI women’s professional cycling team based in Italy and competed in some of the most iconic european races, including Strade Bianche, Giro d’Italia Femminile, and Ronde van Vlaanderen. In 2016 Allison raced on a US professional women’s team, Hagens-Berman Supermint, and had a great year helping her teammates achieve top results.

At the end of the 2016 season, Allison was getting the itch to run again. She signed up for a local sprint triathlon for “fun” and fell back in love with the sport of triathlon and the feeling of pushing herself to the limit. Allison competed in her first race as a professional at Ironman 70.3 Cartagena, finishing 6th, and is looking forward to a great year ahead!

In addition to her athletic background, Allison also has an MBA from the University of Miami and plays an active role in the local cycling community, organizing group rides, promoting cycling safety initiatives, and encouraging women (and men!) to challenge themselves with sport.

Why I Chose Allison: Obviously, Allison has a ton of talent in two of the three disciplines. I thought her journey from collegiate running to professional cycling resounded with me, ultimately trying to find the best place for her athleticism – it’s similar to the journey I went through. Similar to Tony and Alissa, Allison has set up her life and environment for success in the sport with a great coach and training environment in Boulder. What I really liked about Allison was her social media and blogging presence as well. She does a great job telling the stories (ups and downs) of being an athlete, regardless of success or level. I’m excited to see how she fairs in this next stage of her pro endurance career!

Finally, massive thanks to USA Triathlon Foundation for their help and support in getting this through. We couldn’t have done it without you guys and we really appreciate the way you give back to the sport. Thanks so much!

That’s it, guys! I hope you are as stoked as I am about these three. Please give them all a follow and a shout out/congrats if you can. Thanks so much for all of your support which ultimately made this possible. Best of luck to Alissa, Tony, and Allison!

Jesse

2 comments to Scholarship Winners!

  • Terry Benedict

    Aren’t Alissa Doehla and Tony Smoragiewicz both coached by Greg Mueller of team Innovative Endurance? Very impressive and kudos to GM!

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