Sep 9, 2015

Ridgeview Teacher Headed to World Championship Race

Every Monday in Ross Hartley’s classroom is motivational Monday.

Hartley starts by having his Ridgeview STEM Junior High School students watch a brief video designed to inspire the class and get them amped for the week to come.

“After the video, they do a little goal setting,” Hartley said. “While they are doing their goal setting, I do the same thing. I share my goals out loud with them, because I like to set an example and practice what I preach.”

Often, those goals focus on Hartley’s activities outside the classroom – namely, his efforts as a world-class triathlete. Hartley has been the national runner-up three times in the 25-to-29 age group at the annual Sprint Triathlon National Championships. Those finishes gain him entry into the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final Championships, the next of which is Sept. 17 in Chicago.

“It’s a good problem to have when your biggest disappointment is coming in second three different times,” Hartley said.

The triathlons in which Hartley competes consist of a half-mile swim, 12.5-mile bike ride and three-mile run.

“I’ve been doing triathlons since the summer before my senior year, when I was a student going to Pickerington North,” Hartley said. “My cross country coach, Tim Starkey, got me into them. I borrowed his bike for my first race and had a blast, then really got into them next summer. Since that time, I’ve been very lucky to have a lot of success.”

Hartley said his dream is to compete at the Olympics. That would mean a lot more traveling and competing at additional high-profile events on the world stage.

Hartley said he has to train about 15 hours per week, typically split up before and after school.

“You always have to think about what you’re trying to accomplish. If, for a split second, you take your foot off the pedal, whether it’s eating junk food or not staying focused and determined, then other things can start happening, which is not good,” Hartley said. “It’s always a laser-like focus and determination. Always remember what you’re looking for a working for.”

That’s not to say all this competition does not roll over into Hartley’s classroom, helping him connect and hopefully inspire his students.

“I’m showing them that you’ve got to make time,” Hartley said. “You’ve got to get up early, you’ve got to stay up late, and you’ve got to be creative with your ways. But the kids give you a lot of energy. It’s awesome how much they care and how much they ask. They may not say it, but you can tell in their eyes they look up to you.”

Hartley said his triathlon training also helps him as a cross country coach at North.

“Running hurts a lot,” Hartley said. “It brings something different to the table if you have a coach who is running right there with you, who is pushing you.”

It can be challenging balancing work and training, Hartley said. The students help him focus on what’s important.

“What I love about teaching is the energy from the kids,” Hartley said. “They get you going, and every day they bring a smile to your face. And, of course, running triathlons is something that I do, but it’s not who I am. I’m a teacher. That’s who I am.”