Friendly rivalry reinforces commitment to health

What started out as a little friendly rivalry turned out to be a whole lot of fun for buddies Ladell Merritt and Martin Stensing. The two triathletes train all year to put themselves and each other through the paces. This year’s Big Horn Canyon Triathlon at Horseshoe Bend was no exception. The two closely matched athletes vied for a first place win every leg of the course and crossed the finish line together resulting in a tie for first place.

Martin Stensing and Ladell Merritt tied for first place in the triathlon at Horseshoe Bend held on July 9 in conjunction with the Big Horn Lake Celebration.

Merritt is a physical therapist at North Big Horn Hospital in Lovell, and Stensing teaches math at Northwest College in Powell. Stensing is strong in the swim and the run. Merritt is strong on the bike portion of the event. The slight differences in their strengths allows them to push each other to be better athletes.

“The goal for the day was to stay within reaching distance of the other when in the strongest leg of the event so the other one has to push a little harder to stay up,” explained Stensing. “We didn’t want it to be just a sprint to the finish after we had done all this hard work throughout the race since we had worked together and pushed each other throughout the race.”

“I think he pushed me pretty hard on the swim, but I can usually push him hard on the bike,” said Merritt.

Merritt has been an athlete most of his life. He works his exercise regime into his busy schedule by getting up at five in the morning to swim, running during his lunch hour at work and riding his bike either to or from work, which is from Powell to Lovell. He and his wife are both triathletes and share the responsibility for raising their four children. Jeanna Merritt won the women’s division at this race. The couple manage their busy training schedules by watching the children while the other trains.

Stensing competed in his first triathlon in the summer of 1997. Merritt started his triathlon career in 1990. Both agree that making training a part of their daily lifestyle is their secret to staying on track and most of all keeping it fun. Their friendship helps break up the sometimes dull routine of hard training, especially in the winter when so much of their training is indoors.

“We’ve both been doing this sport long enough that we know what it requires in terms of staying healthy and we both have just made it a lifestyle,” said Stensing. “Independent of each other we’d probably be doing this either way but the friendship just makes it more enjoyable.”

By Patti Carpenter