Cougars’ Loutzenheiser embraces challenge

Published 9:08 pm Monday, October 9, 2017

By Kevin Eckleberry

LAGRANGE – He’s always enjoyed running, but he was searching for more, for a different way to challenge himself.

Lafayette Christian School senior Michael Loutzenheiser found it.

First, Loutzenheiser began competing in regular triathlons, and that led to him discovering the world of off-road triathlons.

“I’ve been doing triathlons for quite a while, and I did my first (off-road triathlon) about two years ago,” he said.

He threw himself into the sport, attacking the training with a vengeance, and that hard work has paid massive dividends.

In September, Loutzenheiser participated in the Xterra Pan American Championship in Utah, and the event brought the best off-road triathletes in North America and South America together.

Loutzenheiser held his own.

In the 15-to-19-year-old age group, Loutzenheiser had the third fastest time, and the two men who finished ahead of him are both older.

Loutzenheiser also holds the distinction of being the top finisher from the United States in his age group.

He had the 49th best time, regardless of age.

“I was the first U.S. finisher in my age group, so I’m now I’m the U.S. champion on off-road triathlon, and that earned me a spot to worlds in Hawaii,” Loutzenheiser said.

The world championship is set for later this month in Hawaii.

It was a grueling event in Utah.

It began with a swim of a little more than a mile, and when the competitors exited the lake they climbed onto the bicycle and raced for 17 miles. The race ended with a 6.2-mile run.

As the name of the sport indicates, the bicycle and running portions of the event were held off road, with the competitors having to make their way through the mountainous and rugged course.

Loutzenheiser completed the race in three hours.

“It’s a swim in the lake, and then the bike is 17 miles, and it had two huge, monster climbs and peaks in Utah,” Loutzenheiser said. “It’s really high elevation. It was really one of the hardest races I’ve ever done. And then it was a 10-kilometer trail run, and that was a lot of climbing. It was a slow race, and a hard race, but you can’t really look at time. It’s more effort.”

It was an exhausting experience, but Loutzenheiser is glad he did it.

“It’s a lot of training,” he said. “But it was really a neat experience.”

Loutzenheiser is in the midst of cross-country season at Lafayette Christian right now.

Last week, Loutzenheiser won the county championship with a time of 16 minutes, 46 seconds in the 3.1-mile race at Troup High.

Lafayette Christian competes in the Georgia Independent Christian Athletic Association, and the season is winding down.

The state meet will be Oct. 28 in Macon.

“I won (state) in 10th grade, and last year I had a bad race,” Loutzenheiser said. “It’s the GICAA race, and it’s still a big deal, but it’s a different level (from the GHSA). But the fastest guys are fast. The guy who won last year is a friend of mine who was a senior last year who races really competitive triathlons.”