By her own admission, Alana Dyhrkopp was never much of an athlete growing up.

“I tried the swimming team when I was in sixth grade and wasn’t any good so I quit,” Dyhrkopp said. “I was in lacrosse in high school and we would do two-mile runs and I would be panting. My claim to fame at OPRF was being the drum major of our high school band.”

While music has always been her passion (Dyhrkopp plays the piano and trumpet), the 19-year-old Oak Parker has also achieved success suddenly in a sport no one saw coming ­— including herself.

In the span of just a couple of years, Dyhrkopp has transformed herself from a teenager who doesn’t like running and didn’t swim very well into one of the most promising triathletes in the country. Her rapid and remarkable journey via running, swimming and cycling, will take her to the International Triathlon Union World Triathlon Grand Final in Lausanne, Switzerland in September. Dyhrkopp will be one of approximately 20 Americans competing in the 18/19 age group.

The road to the Olympic Capital of the world started when Dyhrkopp was an upperclassman at OPRF. Initially, she started going on bike rides ranging from 20 to 50 miles. 

“I called my mom during one ride,” Dyhrkopp recalled. “I asked her to guess where I was. She thought I was on a normal bike ride, but I told her I’m in Wisconsin.”

Lisa Lowry, Dyhrkopp’s mother, reacted like any parent would. 

“She sent me a picture of herself on her bike at the Wisconsin state border,” Lowry recalled. “As much as I was excited and proud of her, I was more afraid she might not get home before it got dark.”

After that trip to Kenosha and further training, Dyhrkopp contemplated the idea of competing in a half Ironman, which comprises a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1-mile run. A full Ironman consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2- mile run.

“I’ve always liked pushing myself and trying to do things that seem out of my reach,” she said. “I love long, endurance stuff so I started thinking about doing a race.”

When she expressed interest in trying a half Ironman to her parents, they were supportive if skeptical. A bet was placed. Dyhrkopp’s parents paid the entry fee; however, if Dyhrkopp didn’t finish the race, she would reimburse them.

Employing a rigorous mix of swimming, cycling and running during her senior year at OPRF, Dyhrkopp built her endurance through determination.

“I started waking up at 4 a.m. and getting to the gym by 5 a.m. every day in December. I worked out twice a day until my first race in June of 2018,” she said. “Ten days after I turned 18, I did the half Ironman in Madison, Wisconsin.”

Despite brutal weather conditions, Dyhrkopp performed admirably. (Ironman 70.3 Wisconsin).

“My first race was quite an experience,” she said. “There were about 500 people who dropped out of the race because of the weather conditions. It was storming and my first open water swim had choppy waves. I didn’t have the best clothing either, wearing a cotton sweatshirt, in those conditions. The weather was crazy, but I had a really great race.”

Dyhrkopp accomplished much more than just winning the wager with her parents. She was the youngest person on the leaderboard for her age group (18-24) and also qualified for the USA Triathlon National Championships in Cleveland in June of 2018.

That was just the start. 

At nationals, she qualified for the aforementioned ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Switzerland.

“It’s all so incredible,” Lowry said. “Not too long after finishing her first triathlon, Alana will be representing Team USA in Switzerland. Some of the participants will be trying to place at the Olympic level. My husband, Greg, and I are very proud of the focus, joy and determination she has shown as a triathlete.”

Along with her rise in the triathlon world, Dyhrkopp is taking care of business in the classroom as well. She graduated from OPRF in 2018 and currently attends Tulane University with a major in marketing and a minor in music. She has soaked in the New Orleans vibe, too.

“New Orleans is great. There’s always something to do; a party every night,” Dyhrkopp said. “It’s not the best place to train though. The roads aren’t that great and it’s always humid, but I really like waking up in the morning to take a run along St. Charles [Avenue]. I’m on Tulane’s cycling team, too, which is good training.”

Since entering college, Dyhrkopp has participated in another race, the River Roux in New Roads, Louisiana.

“That was a unique race,” she said. “I swam in a 40 degree, alligator-infested river.”

Between school, training and a job at a coffee shop, Dyhrkopp’s life in the Big Easy is as full as a plate of Jambalaya. Speaking of New Orleans’ famed delicacies, Dyhrkopp has handled that temptation like a champ.

“The best thing about being in college and training is I’m broke so I can’t buy po-boys and crawfish all the time,” she said. “I eat at the dining hall which has a really nice salad bar and good, healthy food. I avoid the pizza and taco sections. I like eating healthy; it makes me feel good.”

Dyhrkopp’s training regimen calls for about two hours a day of activity, six days a week.

“I divvy up the training between swimming, biking and running,” she said. “I get some weightlifting in as well. I’m really comfortable on a bike and I have a good upper body for swimming. 

Running is clearly the least favorite aspect of training for Dyhrkopp.

“I hate running,” she said. “I’ve never understood people who just go out and train for a marathon alone. The hardest part of these races is they don’t let you listen to music. It’s also hard to find good weather and running conditions. 

“I have to really be in the zone to get things done, but I definitely feel the biggest sense of accomplishment finishing a good run because that’s the hardest for me.”

Looking ahead to Lausanne, Dyhrkopp has a game plan.

“I’m going to get there a few days early and train a bit,” she said. “I’m very excited.  The swimming portion will be in Lake Geneva which looks very pretty. I am a little concerned about [cycling] the Swiss mountains. I can handle wind, but mountains can get me out of breath.”

The hard yards accrued on land and water have not altered Dyhrkopp’s big-picture perspective.

“I really like where I am right now,” she said. “I’m a college student and a musician and I love doing that stuff. In terms of a career, I hope to get a studio and produce music after college or do something with music marketing. 

“I’m definitely in the best shape of my life. Being a triathlete is a hobby of mine, so it’s incredibly cool to be on Team USA. I wasn’t going to pass up that opportunity. It’s a pretty good jersey to wear.”

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Marty Farmer

The Illinois Press Association recently honored Marty with the 1st & 2nd Place Awards for Best Sports Feature for his article He's in an Oak Park state of mind: Former OPRF star Iman Shumpert returns...

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