Two accomplished Carmel Valley high school athletes share passion for triathlon

Leslie Zhang, a 14-year-old freshman at Canyon Crest Academy, recently won back-to- back triathlon races at Mission Bay: the Esprit de SHE, a women-only race on Oct. 20 and the Fearless Triathlon on Oct. 26 in the Super Sprint distance (375 m swim, 10K bike and 2.5 K run). Her sister Heather Zhang, a 15-year-old sophomore at the Bishop’s School, also fared well in the longer distance (750 m swim, 20 K bike and 5 K run) at these two races; she placed first in her age group of 15-19 years old at the Esprit de SHE and placed first again at the Fearless Triathlon for ages 19 and under.

Both girls grew up watching their dad competing at Ironman distances along the East Coast. Ever since their move to San Diego two years ago, they started training with local triathlon club Formula Endurance (formerly known as TriJuniors) under the tutelage of elite triathlon coach and former professional triathlete Jim Vance.

Recently, Leslie, with her training teammate and fellow elite triathlete, Heloise, founded a CCA Triathlon Club, a first of its kind within North County schools. Their goal is to raise the awareness of triathlon, encourage their fellow students to stay active and to pursue a healthy lifestyle, and to use the opportunity to give back to the local triathlon community through volunteering at races. In Leslie’s word, “Triathlon is an ideal life-long sport. For example, Bill Bell is still competing at triathlon races in his 90s and remains a true inspiration to fellow triathletes. It is a sport that encourages the participants to embrace the nature and to enjoy the scenery while getting fit. CCA TriClub provides a platform to hone our leadership and organizational skills.“ The CCA Triathlon club meets monthly at Building C, room 107 during lunch time. Please contact the two founders at for more details.

Their hard work and commitment seem to pay off: Leslie, Heather, and their friend Heloise, as well as many other club teammates at Formula Endurance are now ranked nationally for the past two years. They enjoy travelling together to many parts of the U.S. to compete in the Elite Cup Qualifying Series and the Junior Elite National Championships.