Pocahontas resident DeYoung adding new chapter to triathlon story

Submitted photo: Shaylyn DeYoung of Pocahontas, a former Iowa State swimmer, will represent the United States at the World Triathlon Sprint and Relay Championships this summer in Hamburg, Germany.

POCAHONTAS — Almost 14 years ago, Shaylyn DeYoung rediscovered her passion for competing athletically at an elite level.

The Pocahontas resident’s energy has been contagious ever since, reaching area students, adults young and old, and even her own children.

DeYoung will enjoy her own moment in the spotlight this summer, though, as the former Iowa State University swimmer was recently informed she has qualified for the World Triathlon Sprint and Relay Championships. DeYoung will represent the United States this July 13-16 in Hamburg, Germany.

“I am super excited, because representing your country at an athletic event is such an honor,” said DeYoung, a certified USA Triathlon Level II coach, USA Swimming coach and USA Track and Field Level I coach.

The 41-year-old DeYoung, whose maiden name is Shaylyn Green, is a native of South Africa. As a 10th grader, she decided to swim collegiately and study in the United States.

“I contacted coaches from around the country and was offered a scholarship to swim for Iowa State,” DeYoung said. “I turned 18 years old, packed my bags and flew to Iowa.”

DeYoung graduated from ISU in 2003, but admitted she was “burned out and tired of competing” at that point after nearly two decades of swimming for medals and trophies.

DeYoung married her husband, Heath — a graduate of Laurens-Marathon and Iowa State — and the couple later moved to his family’s farm just outside of Pocahontas. Around that same time, the competitive bug bit her again.

“I did my first triathlon in 2009, just three months after my second child was born,” DeYoung said. “After a few years away from the pool, I got bored with daily exercise and realized I missed competition. I wanted to go back to it. Unfortunately, we had no master’s swim programs around us, so I decided to give triathlons a try.

“I was already a good swimmer and runner, and decided this would be my way back into competition as an adult.”

As DeYoung began to invest more in her time as a triathlete, her passion became a family affair.

“When I did my first triathlon, my oldest (Josiah, who is now 16) was two years old,” DeYoung said. “Over the next few years, he came to watch me race at many triathlons every summer. When he was seven (in 2014), he asked me if he could start racing in triathlons as well. We signed him up for three that summer, and he won a race in Omaha. After that win, he was hooked.”

The DeYoungs joined a team based out of Des Moines in 2018 due to general lack of triathlon interest in the area. That all changed during COVID in 2020, though, as her newfound love for the sport began to reach others in and around the Pocahontas community.

“When COVID shut everything down, we went back to doing our own triathlon practices (at home initially),” DeYoung said. “A lot of my friends’ kids started joining us, though, because it was a sport we could safely do outside while maintaining social distance.”

That summer, the Twin Lakes Tri Club was born. Today, over 60 registered youth athletes are involved in the program, from the ages of five through high school.

“Twin Lakes Tri Club is like my sixth baby,” DeYoung said. “I love our team and everything we do in the summer. We train hard and we race hard, but we have a lot of fun doing it. We learn that we are tougher than we give ourselves credit for.”

The Twin Lakes Youth Triathlon, meanwhile, is a rapidly-growing annual event. The 2023 competition, hosted by Twin Lakes Bible Camp, will be the organization’s sixth.

“We usually get around 100 youth athletes racing in our events each summer,” DeYoung said. “We have to travel to all of our (other) races, which are usually seven or eight each year. That’s why we initially started our own Twin Lakes Youth Triathlon.”

DeYoung’s drive to introduce triathlons — a sport which features endurance tests in distance swimming, cycling and running — to as many people as possible is rooted in her competitive background and desire to reinforce a healthy lifestyle.

“(Being a triathlete) is something you can do from the moment you can swim and ride a bike without training wheels (as a child), all the way into your 90s,” DeYoung said. “It’s a lifelong sport that is surrounded by an amazing community.”

The Twin Lakes Tri Club offers an elite program for older kids, and DeYoung also serves as a coach for parents interested in trying a Half Ironman. Last summer, the youth team produced two national champions and a national runner-up. The group also participated — and successfully performed — in the Rip Roar Youth Triathlon Series, which included five youth triathlons in Iowa and Nebraska.

DeYoung’s expertise in the pool, combined with the age of her children, also got her involved in the Fort Dodge Area Swim Team, known as FAST.

“I’m an assistant coach and have helped on the pool deck in Fort Dodge since 2018,” DeYoung said. “I have coached all levels of youth swimmers, and am currently working with swimmers age 10-13 (from the Fort Dodge region).

“Three of my own children swim for FAST, and I bring five other athletes from Pocahontas to practice with me a few times a week.”

DeYoung is well aware of the impact competitive swimming can have on young athletes, having experienced this lifestyle herself.

“I love to coach swimming because I was a competitive swimmer until college. I know where swimming can take you, what you can learn from it, and the joy of the life-long friendships that you make along the way.

“It’s been a pleasure coaching with new (FAST) head coach Joe Plane. He’s doing wonderful things for the sport in our area, and I’m learning a lot from him. I’m excited to see where this team will take our kids and the opportunities it will provide.”

This summer, DeYoung will shift her attention from coaching and helping others to representing the United States as an individual performer. After qualifying for United States Triathlon (USAT) age group nationals by placing in the top level at a USAT sanctioned event, DeYoung had to finish in the Top-8 of her age group to advance to worlds.

DeYoung raced in Milwaukee this past August to secure her spot.

“I’m nervous, but excited and proud to (be a member of) Team USA in the sport I’ve devoted the last 14 years of my life to.”

The DeYoungs have five children: Josiah; Caitlyn, 13; Addie, 11; Keegan, 9; and Taelyn, 8.


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