Six-time Wildflower Triathlon winner and Aviator-sporting Jesse Thomas remembers what it was like as a new pro triathlete. Nobody really tells you what to do, where to go, or how to make it work. As a late-comer to the sport (started at 29), some might have considered him too old to be starting a career in a sport not known for throwing large sums of cash at its pro athletes.
Combining some surprising early wins with an entrepreneurial streak and MBA know how, Jesse not only built a career, but a brand and a business. Last year, he announced on his site his desire to give back to young pros through a scholarship program. After sifting through nearly 60 applications, he announced the winners last week.
Jesse's goal with the scholarships was not only to provide much-needed financial support, but also provide professional development in what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur and personal brand (more or less required to make a workable living as a pro triathlete). Jesse himself has several streams of income, including the business he and wife Lauren founded (Picky Bars), and Roka's version of the gas-station Aviators he wore to his first breakthrough triathlon win.
Allison Linnell is a former pro cyclist and who competed in triathlon as an age-group athlete and returned to the sport in late 2016 and placed 6th overall at her first pro race at Ironman 70.3 Cartagena.
Alissa Doehla is a former pro runner who raced her first ever triathlon just last year (an Olympic-distance race in Naples, FL, which she won despite coming off the bike 6 mins behind the leader). She's placed on the podium in her last three 70.3 races.
Smorgawicz Smorcawigz ....."T-Smorz." Before his NCAA career running for the University of Michigan, Tony raced youth and junior elite triathlon in the U.S. and abroad, finishing third at the world championship in Beijing in 2011. He's aiming for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo and building up points in Continental Cup races as he attempts to move up in the rankings to get on the start list for ITU races.