Chasing an Olympic Dream at the St. Anthony’s Triathlon

chase mcqueen

Hollywood would be hard-pressed to conjure up a better name for one of the world’s top triathlon competitors on the scene today. Face it: Chase McQueen has the perfect ring – evoking images of late acting legend and renowned motorsports speed demon Steve McQueen, the Pixar flick character Lightning McQueen, and an elite athlete chasing new heights and possibly a Team USA spot in the Paris Olympics this summer.

In fact, McQueen’s first foray in the internationally renowned St. Anthony’s Triathlon on April 28 will also serve as a tuneup for his bid to land one of the few openings on the men’s U.S. Olympic Triathlon team two weeks later in Yokohama, Japan. He’s currently ranked fifth in the world and has a legitimate shot to make the team if things fall his way in Japan. And a strong showing in St. Petersburg could send him into the critical Yokohama Triathlon on May 11, with a burst of momentum.

“We enjoy hosting so many different athletes at the St. Anthony’s Triathlon,” said Patrick McGee, Triathlon manager and race director. “We have had past triathlon champions and past Olympians at our race. We are excited to welcome Chase as he chases his dream. And it is a real honor for our weekend warriors and first-time triathletes to race on the same course as our professional athletes and our elite athletes.”

“Hopefully, St. Anthony’s will give me a nice boost of confidence,” McQueen said in a recent call. “We still don’t know if there will be two or three spots on the guys’ side. One spot is already taken, and there will be one auto-qualification event in Japan. If nobody auto-qualifies – which means finishing in the Top Three – then it just goes to a discretionary selection, based on a holistic review of your previous two years.”

McQueen, 25, is right in the thick of it. In fact, a discretionary selection following his race in Japan might well favor him, since he could be picked for a mixed relay by USA Triathlon on the basis of two of his strongest triathlon assets: swimming and biking.

“Chase will likely be able to keep his name in the hat for the second Olympic spot,” said Parker Spencer, who coached McQueen as part of a USA Triathlon training program he founded, Project Podium. “The discretionary committee won’t be looking at which athlete will reach the podium individually. They’ll be looking at who can help Team USA win a mixed relay medal. Chase is a very strong swimmer and biker, and his run continues to get faster.”

It would not go unnoticed by the committee that McQueen was part of a gold-medal World Triathlon Series mixed relay team in Montreal two years ago – serving as the anchor, with two men and two women completing a super-sprint triathlon (300m swim, approximately 6.6.m bike and a 1 km run).

Spencer and the Podium Project have played a formidable role in McQueen’s life – both from an athletic and personal perspective. Spencer started the professional development program in 2018, geared to turning promising swimmers, cyclists and runners as college juniors and seniors into competitive triathletes, rather than losing them to individual collegiate sports where they could compete on scholarship. And Spencer immediately recruited McQueen as an inaugural member.

“He was one of the eight guys in the country I had my eyes on and wanted to help start this program,” Spencer said. “Without a Chase McQueen, I would not have the guys I now have in Project Podium.”

A young man in an athletic suit runs along a street during a race.

Chase McQueen currently sits at No. 5 on the Olympic roster with three slots to fill for the team. He hopes a good showing at the upcoming St. Anthony’s Triathlon will move him up in the ranks.

At the time, McQueen was building on his prowess as a swimmer, a pursuit that began in small-town Columbus, Indiana. “My parents always supported me and just wanted me to pursue my dreams,” he said. “They taught me to follow opportunities because life moves fast.”

So did McQueen, whose outstanding swimming ability landed him a scholarship at the University of Arizona. But he never swam for the Wildcats. By the end of his senior year in high school, he was feeling burned out on competitive swimming and, before arriving at Arizona, decided to pursue track and cross country. He made the cut as a walk-on and excelled during his first two years at Arizona – with no inkling that Spencer had been following his progress for the fledgling Project Podium.

McQueen was sold on the idea of competing in three disciplines, and, at the advice of Spencer, transferred to archrival Arizona State University, which gave him a running scholarship and allowed him to continue training with Project Podium. “It was a real turning point, because his running got better and better,” Spencer said.

He’s continued that upward trajectory and remains grateful to Spencer and the program – often doing Zoom calls to share his experiences with the current Project Podium team and provide encouragement. But there’s another reason for his ongoing gratitude. McQueen met his partner, women’s professional triathlete Gina Sereno, during the program and they have been together ever since, nowadays dubbed triathlon’s “Power Couple.”

Sereno is also in the mix to qualify for the Olympics but will be competing elsewhere the weekend of St. Anthony’s. Her parents live in Sarasota, and they will be competing in age-group races – and visiting with Chase when time allows. “(Chase and Gina) are super impressive individuals,” Spencer said, “and her resume speaks for itself.”

It includes working as a NASA engineer. Sereno is known particularly as a standout runner with skills honed at the University of Michigan and boasting a continental triathlon ranking of No. 8.

They have shared the frequently exhausting yet exhilarating pro triathlon experience that McQueen likens to a “traveling circus.” “We try to plan our races together as much as possible because it is so much easier doing things together, though often times our calendars don’t align,” Sereno said. “Having a partner and best friend by your side makes all the challenges this sport brings, that much more achievable.”

Adds McQueen: Some of that fun has involved fans, even race announcers, confusing him with the grandson of Steve McQueen, also from Indiana with a grandson named … Chase McQueen. But these days, this Chase McQueen is making a name all his own.

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