Above the Best: Aviator flourishes on All-Army Triathlon Team
June 27, 2014
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (June 27, 2014) -- The day was hot and the bay water was cold, but that didn't stop a Fort Rucker flight school student from achieving what many Soldiers only dream of.
Second Lt. Justine Emge, D Company, 1st Battalion, 145th Aviation Regiment, represented the Army May 31, at Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, California, as she competed in the Armed Forces Triathlon Championship for the All-Army Triathlon Team.
And the young Aviator, who will soon begin flying Apaches out of Hanchey Army Heliport here, said it was a long, hard road that led her there.
"I wanted to be on the team for many, many years, because it was and still is my dream to represent my branch in the sport that I love," she said.
To be considered, Emge had to compile a résumé of her certified triathlon accomplishments throughout her career, as well as her swimming résumé, which USA Triathlon verified.
In March, she found out she was selected for the team, but her training largely stayed the same. The only difference was added stress to do well while representing the Army and the added excitement of being labeled one of the Army's top athletes.
There were 20 female, and 32 male competitors. This triathlon is an Olympic distance triathlon. The swim was 1,500 meters; the bike portion was 40 kilometers; and competitors finished with a grueling 10-kilomter run.
Emge, who hails from National Guard's 1-135th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, is very proud of her two hours and 12 minutes finishing time. She placed fourth overall for females.
"I was the fastest female in the Army, and I was the first female out of out of the water in the race, as a whole. Take that Navy," she joked. "I think the best part for me was being able to compete while I was in flight school. It was great being able to represent the Army and now being able to represent the All-Army Triathlon team here locally for those interested in the sport."
Emge hosted a triathlon transition clinic with the Fort Rucker Red, White and Blue chapter, before the Fort Rucker Triathlon, which was held June 21, to help spread her knowledge onto beginners getting into the sport. Emge also participated on a team during the race, which came in first place in a record-breaking time.
This was the first year she was eligible to compete on the All-Army team, and said it was awesome being surrounded by other Soldiers who shared her two major passions -- the Army and triathlons.
"I got my triathlon uniform the day before the race, and when they handed it to me a huge surge of pride went through me. I sent pictures to everyone in my family," she said, smiling at the memory. "It was such a big moment for me because all my hard work had finally paid off."
Emge said she learned a lot from the competition and her fellow All-Army teammates.
"They were all great athletes, but they had so much more that they brought to the table -- such as their experiences in the military, with their families, and how they dealt not only with triathlon training, but balancing Army training and life," she said.
"It was really awesome being able to talk to all of them, because they all came from different backgrounds," she continued. "There were eight men and five females on the team. Out of them, four of us were aviation officers and there was one flight surgeon. The five of us really had a good time sharing stories."
One of the hardest things about the race itself, Emge said, was the inability to draft off of a male competitor inches in front of her.
"Drafting is legal in this triathlon -- meaning bikers can use the momentum of the biker in front of them to make it easier of a ride for themselves," she said. "But since I was a minute ahead of the next female, I had no one to draft off of, because we are only allowed to draft off of the same gender. And during the entire length of the bike portion there was a male Marine just in front of me, taunting me."
Even though she wasn't allowed to draft off of the Marine, she still gained another minute on the other females that were behind her. She did not fall out of first place until she reached mile three on the run.
"Even though I was passed by three females by the end of the race, I did really well, and I loved representing my branch," she said.
Emge began competing in triathlons in high school, and was attracted to the sport because it is incredibly challenging, saying it pushes her mentally and physically, but that it is the perfect equalizer.
She continued by saying that continuing the sport while a flight school student has provided her a way to decompress after a hard day.
"I will bring 5-and-9s (chapter study cards) and study while I am biking. Or sometimes I will run with an instructor pilot, and they will ask me questions to keep me sharp and my mind off of how far I have to run," she said. "To give up doing triathlons while I am in flight school would have been more detrimental for me."
Emge has her sights on representing America in the Conseil International du Sport Militaire, which is the military world summer games competition. If she places high enough in the Armed Forces Triathlon Championship next year, she can be chosen to represent the entire U.S. forces in South Korea next summer.