Meet Team Waco: Six area residents earn scholarships to compete in Ironman

Team Waco is supporting six local athletes on their mission to complete an Ironman.
Published: Mar. 19, 2022 at 4:20 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WACO, Texas (KWTX) - Waco will host Ironman races for the next seven years, and the Greater Waco Sports Commission wanted to find a way to help the community get to know some of the athletes and help support them.

To do that, it launched a scholarship program to create Team Waco. The commission partnered with local businesses to provide scholarships for six people to compete. The scholarships help with everything from the entry fee training to equipment.

Mike Vogelaar, executive director of the commission, said they decided to launch the program in January and there were 38 applicants. Ultimately 11 were interviewed before they chose 6 winners.

Vogelaar said the idea is for the community to rally around Team Waco and cheer them on.

“I think that this is really just going to help bring the community together from all sorts of parts of town, so that when the Ironman does happen in October, people are really dialed in, they are excited,” Vogelaar said. “They’re going to be able to see the magic and everything about what that event is in each one of these individual lives there in the middle of October.”

Jessie Patterson is one of the scholarship winners—she will be competing in the half Ironman.

Patterson said she decided to apply after seeing the scholarship program on Reddit. She is a powerlifter, so she said this is a bit outside her comfort zone, but Patterson said she’s competing to honor her birth son.

Patterson said her birth son’s adoptive dad and grandfather have done Ironman races, and it’s something that has been a bucket list item for her. However, she didn’t think it would happen this soon without the scholarship.

Her birth son’s adoptive dad will be competing with her, and she said the experience means a lot.

“My life has been so changed by my birth son and so just thinking of doing something that celebrates him and his adoptive parents, it’s just really overwhelming,” Patterson said. “It’s a mix of just feeling really, really honored. Not just to have the sponsorship, but just to do something else to celebrate my birth son. So it’s just this combination of just really powerful for me.”

Erika Sutton, another scholarship winner, is a doctor of physical therapy and professor at Baylor. Sutton said she applied for the scholarship because she wanted to see what she is capable of.

While she was a college athlete, Sutton said she couldn’t do anything she used to, or keep up with her kids. She decided it was time to change her life, and she lost 60 pounds and changed her mindset.

Last year, she signed up for the Waco Sprint Triathlon, and qualified for nationals. Now, she’s turning to an Ironman. She said the support of the scholarship is a huge motivator for her, like her family, who was her original motivation for getting active again.

“They help me resurface and give me purpose, and now I’m excited because I get to do things,” Sutton said. “I remember Sage running down the bridge when I was finishing the triathlon, and I will remember that forever, and so I do this for my family.”

Patterson will be competing in the half Ironman. You can follow her progress, as well as Patterson’s, on the Greater Waco Sports Commission’s Instagram and Facebook and at #TeamWaco.

Vogelaar said they plan to create merchandise and other ways to help support the team, because this is something they’d like to create for future competitions. The Ironman is in October.

Copyright 2022 KWTX. All rights reserved.