Mount Pleasant's Lauren Goss is quickly climbing the ranks of professional triathlon, as evidenced by USA Triathlon honoring her as the 2010 Female Under-23 Athlete of the Year last week.
The 23-year-old, who graduated from Clemson University in December, knew she was in the running for the award, but when USAT, the governing body for triathlon in the United States, chose another under-23 athlete for funding, Goss thought she might not get it.
"I was surprised," said Goss, who is currently ranked 11th in the professional division in the U.S. "I think I won the award because I was the most consistent (female in the category). For my first season of racing professional, it was a good season."
Goss said her biggest win of the year came in September at the USA Triathlon Elite National Championship in Tuscaloosa, Ala., where she finished ninth overall and first for women 23-under. The division is separate from the open division because young adult triathletes tend to attend college and don't have the same opportunities to train as professionals do.
Goss, the daughter of Wayne and Sandra Goss, is a true local girl. She went to Mount Pleasant Academy and graduated from Wando High School in 2006. Her family lives in Brickyard Plantation subdivision and triathlon race results list her residence as Mount Pleasant.
Though she swam for Wando, she had sworn off the sport due to burnout until her then-boyfriend got her interested in triathlons and she discovered a penchant for the sport, which tapped into her intensely competitive spirit and invigorated an interest in cycling, running and even swimming.
Last fall, she demonstrated her athletic prowess locally by winning the Turkey Day 5K, which was only her third 5K, in 17 minutes, 36 seconds. Nine days later, she came in a close second to a Russian elite runner at the Reindeer Run, finishing in 17:01.
Goss' ambition, however, goes beyond winning local races. She is working toward competing in the Olympics -- likely the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, though she has hopes for the 2012 games in London.
Her effort for London, however, suffered when she did not get USAT funding to help pay expenses, particularly to events that offer points toward a ranking in the top six of female professionals in the United States. In turn, those top six vie for one of three Olympic triathlon team spots, one by finishing first in a triathlon in London in July, one in Beijing in September and a discretionary spot chosen by USAT.
"Trying to be a professional triathlete at 23 is hard when you don't have funding," said Goss, noting the amount of training necessary to compete at an elite level.
Goss gets some help from sponsors, such as Hammer Nutrition, Rudy Project, Champion Systems, Profile Design and Vibram Five Fingers, and hopes others will pay more attention to her after getting the USAT award. She added that the hardest sponsorship to find is for elite level bicycles.
"That's another limiting factor because top-of-the-line bikes are so expensive. When everybody is trained to their best, it's often the little things like a great bike that makes a difference."
With college out of the way, Goss can now focus more of her efforts on training. After Christmas, she moved, on a temporary basis, to South Bend, Ind., to train with a group coached by elite triathlon coach Greg Mueller. She works about 18 hours a week at Metro Run & Walk and trains about 20 hours.
Her next big race is the USA Triathlon Elite Race Series in Clermont, Fla., on March 5. She expects to return to Charleston for the Cooper River Bridge Run and Walk on April 2 and hopefully win prize money to help her achieve her dream.