NHHS senior swaps prom for Ironman

Instead of attending her senior prom, Newport Harbor High senior Kelsey Christensen competed in the Ironman 70.3 Hawaii triathlon on June 1.

Christensen, an 18-year-old and 2013 top-15 graduate at Newport Harbor, was the youngest female participant in the highly competitive field of 1,941 professional and age-group athletes who raced a 1.2-mile open ocean swim, followed by a 56-mile bike through black lava fields and green pastures and finishing with a 13.1-mile run along the hot and sunny Kohala Coast.

While her friends were shopping for prom dresses and making hair appointments, Christensen trained for seven months, starting last fall after her varsity tennis season ended.

She often trained twice a day, sometimes for as many as four hours a day, swimming for hours in the pool, biking hundreds of miles and running circles around the Back Bay.

Time management and squeezing in two-a-day training was always a challenge as she balanced four AP classes, college applications, tutoring and fundraising for the John Wayne Cancer Foundation, for which she has raised $6,000 individually and through a National Honor Society fundraiser she spearheaded.

"Sometimes I think I was crazy for setting this goal for myself, but now there's no way I'm giving up," she said before the race.

Christensen finished 10th in her age-group of 18-24-year-old women, with a time of 7 hours, 7 minutes, 3 seconds. She beat her 46-year old dad, Peter, who raced with her and finished in 7:59:14.

In the fall, Christensen will be entering Northwestern's Honors Program in Medical Education in Chicago, a seven-year BS/MD program, another highly competitive field with only approximately 35 students from around the world accepted to the program annually.

In her free time, she'll be training for and participating in sprint and Olympic distance triathlons.

— Wendy Diehl

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