Top-10 finish just another step for KU swimming alumna Dippold

Like anyone excited about a trip to Hawaii, Kelly Dippold is counting down the weeks until she arrives on the Big Island. Her countdown reached seven last weekend, but instead of shopping for a new swimsuit or working on a base tan to prep for the trip, the former Kansas swimmer turned in a top-10 finish at the USA Triathlon Age Group Olympic-Distance National Championships in Omaha on Saturday, finishing the 1500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike ride and 10-kilometer run in 2:18.04.82. On Sunday, she followed that up with an age-group victory and 11th-best finish in the shorter sprint distance event while earning the Masters title and Performance of the Day recognition from event organizers.

It was an impressive feat for the 54-year-old, but just another step in the training for Dippold’s Hawaiian getaway, which might be one of the most strenuous and rewarding experiences of her life, as she competes among the world’s best in the IRONMAN World Championship Oct. 8 in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. That event includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run – nearly four times the distance she covered during Saturday’s event. Seven more weeks, weeks full of work and further preparation, but Dippold is pleased with the progress.

“I’ve been (to USAT Nationals) the last couple of years and I won my age group the last three years,” Dippold, who competed along with fellow Jayhawk Cathy Coulter Wood in Saturday’s race, said. “My goal was to win it again this year in both the Olympic distance and the sprint. Unfortunately, I fell a bit short of that on Saturday and was second in my age group, but the overall finish I was really happy with. I was a little slow on my run, but otherwise it was a good day.”
 Former Kansas swimmer Kelly Dippold riding
at the 2015 USA Triathlon National
Dippold will attack the remaining days just like she will the 140.6-mile race, one at a time. On a typical workday she wakes around 5 a.m., and starts with a run and a swim, followed by work and an evening ride, all while maintaining an unwavering commitment to her family. She’ll utilize her remaining weekends for logging 100-mile bike rides and lots of running.

“I’ve got a lot of hard work to do between now and then,” Dippold said with a chuckle, hinting at both the excitement and challenge of competing at the once-in-a-lifetime, grueling world championships.

Dippold qualified for the World Championships by placing fourth among women, and tops in her age group, with a time just over 10 hours and 30 minutes at IRONMAN Wisconsin in 2015. She’s had a year to prep, but her roots in endurance competition go back to her days swimming in Robinson Natatorium, where as a Kansas Jayhawk swimmer (then Kelly Burke) she contributed to three-straight team Big 8 Championships while qualifying for NCAAs and Olympic Trials as an individual. It was during that time she developed time management and training habits, but also fostered relationships that got her competing again.

“We had to do a triathlon as part of our fall training at KU,” Dippold, who was a senior during current Kansas head coach Clark Campbell’s freshman year in 1984-85, said. “That was what first got me started in it but I hated to run at that point in my life. After my second child was born I started running because it was easy and you could just go out the door and get it done. I got a little bit better and then when I moved back to Kansas City maybe 16 years ago, I reconnected with a lot of the girls I swam with at KU. Cathy Wood, who also raced with past weekend, talked me into doing some races around here with her. Since then she and I have been doing a lot of local, national and international races too. So really, KU connections got me into it.”

Dippold also noted time management skills developed at KU in a video highlighting her recognition as the Kansas City Sports Commission’s 2013 Sportswoman of the Year.

“Being a student-athlete, swimming through school, I learned to manage my time,” Dippold said. “Thirty years later, I still have to manage my time, even more so than then. Now I have a family dynamic to add into that. My priority is always my family first.”

Dippold’s number of triathlons completed is nearing triple digits, and while October’s race will be a “bucket list” type of experience, she wants to do it well. It’s that competitive fire and continued pursuit of fitness that has Campbell among those in the Kansas Jayhawks family rooting loudly.

“We had the pleasure of having Kelly in the last year to present our seniors with their K Rings (at the Senior Celebration),” Campbell said. “It was a great honor and our kids got to see Kelly, who was a great swimmer at the university, and it’s a great inspiration for our program because they’re like, ‘Hey I can still do this.’

“I think the bottom line is athletics, when you’re young, there is the college thing and the competitive thing and all the things that we strive for, but what it does is set you up for a lifetime of health and fitness. Kelly is epitomizing that and she is still competing at a very high level through her top-10 finish. Kelly is actually probably better at the IRONMAN distances, the ultra-distance triathlons, versus the Olympic distance. This was probably a walk in the park for her.

“I love it when I see our former athletes still – whether it’s in Masters swimming, a triathlon, road racing – going out and testing themselves against themselves and making themselves continue to be physically fit. The number one thing out of sports participation is the fitness aspect. To see them continue doing that throughout their lives is really satisfying to see as a coach.” The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.