Brent Sunnucks, 16, goes through grueling workouts six days a week, which are making him a competitive force.
By JOHN SCHWARB
Published June 29, 2003
Having just finished his freshman year of high school, Brent Sunnucks should be entitled to relax a bit. Maybe sleep late a few mornings, waste a couple of slow summer weeks with friends, you know, take in a 16-year-old's offseason from school.
There would certainly be no need for, say, 6 a.m. wake-up calls six days a week. Yet that is Sunnucks' summer.
The St. Petersburg triathlete is in the midst of a full training and racing schedule, continuing to build on a budding career that is already one of the best anywhere.
Last year, Sunnucks finished second in the nation among 15-and-under triathletes and earned All-America honors from USA Triathlon. Earlier this month, he added another event title to his resume, winning the 15-19 age group at the Coca-Cola Classic Triathlon at Davis Islands in Tampa.
Saturday he took fourth at another Coca-Cola Classic Triathlon at Deerfield Beach.
Such success keeps him waking up early every morning, first to head to North Shore Pool for swimming training with his St. Petersburg Aquatics club team.
"I've done it about four summers in a row," Sunnucks said, rattling off a grueling daily schedule that includes four hours of swimming alone, then biking and running on top of it.
Swimming is the calling card that Sunnucks hopes to ride to a college scholarship in a few years, but triathlons are a relatively new pursuit that he has come a long way with since 2000.
That year, at the St. Anthony's Meek & Mighty triathlon for youth and novice triathletes (1-mile run, 5.4-mile bike, 200-yard swim), Sunnucks bumbled through the bike leg, first failing to locate his ride in the transition area and then falling on the course.
Yet he won his age group anyway and was hooked.
"All my friends were doing it and one suggested the Meek & Mighty," Sunnucks said. "I just kind of picked it up and was good."
To say the least. His Meek & Mighty days are over now, replaced by bigger challenges such as the St. Anthony's feature race, contested at the Olympic distances of .9-mile swim, 24.8-mile bike and 6.2-mile run.
He raced that in April for the first time and was derailed by a flat tire in the bike leg after hitting two potholes back to back, but was inspired by his performance up to that point.
This summer's busy schedule includes several races in the Publix Family Fitness Weekend summer series, a group of sprint triathlons (.25-mile swim, 12-mile bike, 3.1-mile run) with several in Florida including the two Coca-Cola Classic events.
Sunnucks has enjoyed plenty of success at the sprint distance, including a first at the St. Petersburg Triathlon last September, leading to the Florida State Regional Sprint Championship award in the 15-24 age division.
Though just 5 feet 4 and 115 pounds, he's easy to spot at a triathlon. Look for the first wave of competitors out of the water and he'll be there.
"It feels really good to get out there in front and try to hold on to a lead," said Sunnucks, who will attend St. Petersburg High this fall after transferring from Admiral Farragut in large part because the public school has a bigger swim team.
Many top triathletes are swimmers by trade, and Sunnucks is "just beginning to tap his potential" in the pool according to SPA coach Fred Lewis. He's obviously already doing that in triathlons, where there is just one name ahead of Sunnucks in the rankings: 16-year-old Duncan Hoge of Chapel Hill, N.C., another swimming-savvy triathlete.
The two have not competed in the same race yet, but Sunnucks keeps a close eye on his results.
"He's really, really fast, but I think we're pretty close," Sunnucks said. "It would be nice to be No. 1 and a national champ, but I'm good with being second."