By Jack Calhoun
City on a Hill Press Reporter

It might be unusual to see Slugs swim, run and ride bikes, but at UC Santa Cruz, the “Tri-Slugs” do all three.

Tri-Slugs, a group of studen triathletes, became an unofficial UCSC club four years ago. Alumnus John Zisco founded the club in order to provide interested students with the opportunity to race and compete in triathlons: three-leg races that consist of a swim, a bike ride and a run.

As a senior in high school, Zisco participated in several triathlons, and he came to UCSC looking to continue the sport by joining a campus club. That club didn’t exist.

“UC Davis, Berkeley, Stanford, and most other schools had one, so I just assumed UC Santa Cruz did too,” Zisco said.

UC Santa Cruz did in fact have a triathlon club for a brief period of time in the 1990s, but it fell apart soon after it was started due to lack of interest. After his discovery, Zisco decided to re-establish his own club. He then went to Kevin “Skippy” Givens, the director of intramural and club sports, in order to get some help in building a foundation for the old club he was trying to revive. With support from Givens, Zisco managed to get the club rolling through several sponsors as the official UCSC chapter of the Santa Cruz Triathlon Association (SCTA).

With the first competitive race held in the mid-’70s in Southern California, the triathlon has gained significant popularity over the past 15 years as more people venture into the sport.

Triathlons cover a variety of different distances, ranging from a “sprint,” a course that covers several miles, all the way up to an “Iron Man,” a race that covers hundreds of miles. When the club started again in early 2005, it had roughly 10 dedicated, but otherwise inexperienced, triathletes.

“It was interesting starting out,” Zisco said with a chuckle. “Our first [few] races in 2005 were completely self-funded. I remember our first race in April of 2005 down in Santa Barbara. We all hopped in a car, split the gas money, and then crashed at someone’s dorm that night in UCSB.”

The club has come a long way since sleeping on the floor that night in Santa Barbara.

“The team is getting bigger every year,” said Andrew Afable, Tri-Slug member and co-president. “It seems every [season] there’s more and more interest.”

In addition to seeing a boost in numbers on the roster, the club became an official club sport on campus after being granted independence from the SCTA when UCSC passed the intramural and club sports referendum in 2006. It entitled the Tier I club to a $2,000 per year spending cap.

Co-presidents Afable and Ben Webber manage the club together by organizing races, practices and whatever else it may need.

“We hold and cater workouts almost every day, as do we advise workouts and nutrition,” Afable said. “We really try to show our members through our workouts [that] this is what it’s going to be like during a race.”

The Tri-Slugs’ next race is scheduled for March 7 in Redwood City, where the Slugs will go up against Division I clubs such as Stanford and UC Berkeley. For the Tri-Slugs, getting to compete against top-tier programs is an honor in itself, especially considering they were sleeping on dormitory floors between races only a few years ago.

“There’s always so much room for improvement,” said senior Eugene Lee, a former club member. “There are so many different aspects you can improve on. I can always find ways to improve my time and challenge myself.”

Members are still working to get the club’s legs strong enough to keep it running.

“[Right now] they’re in rebuilding mode,” Givens said. “These next few races are going to be used [to gain] experience.”

Contact the Tri-Slugs online at

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