Former Coyote Nine Months into Professional Athletic Career
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Former Coyote Nine Months into Professional Athletic Career

In January, student athlete Maddie Lavin took to social media to announce her time in Vermillion was over.

Lavin, a Vermillion native attended USD where she studied neuroscience and marketing while also competing as a triathlon, swim and dive, cross country and track and field athlete for the Coyotes.  

Now, Lavin is a professional triathlete training with the Project Podium Squad in Arizona.

“In order to kick off and pursue this pro-triathlon career I had to pick up and move to a better training spot that was in Arizona/Utah,” Lavin said.

As a freshman at USD, Lavin set the DakotaDome pool and school record in the 200 fly (2:21.21) in a dual against SDSU and also was a part of the cross country team that won the Summit League Championships for the fifth-straight time.

During her junior season, Lavin set the school record in the 100 fly (1:04.79) against SDSU and also earned CTCA Scholar All-America Honors in triathlon.

As Lavin transitions from collegiate athlete to professional triathlete, she said there are a few changes that have taken some getting used to.

“The main difference was just the fact of training with guys and getting used to doing a few workouts solo,” Lavin said. “It was a lot different than at South Dakota when I had a bajillion teammates to train with.”

Project Podium, the group Lavin has been training with, was created because the NCAA doesn’t have a men’s triathlon program and therefore male athletes needed a training program to develop them for an Olympic cycle, Lavin said.

Since leaving the Coyote community, Lavin said she has spent her time training and racing around the world.

She moved to Arizona in January and began training with Project Podium right away. Triathlon season then began in mid-March. Lavin has competed in races in both South America and Europe and will be returning to South America in the near future to compete.

While Lavin has had the opportunity to travel abroad to race, she said the highlight of her career occurred when she was still a Coyote.

In July 2021, Lavin competed in her first elite race in Long Beach, California and said that was the moment that kickstarted her lifelong passion for triathlon.

“It was a race where I didn’t have any expectations,” Lavin said. “It began this realization of ‘Oh, I could do this full time.’ I think that race opened my eyes to the possibility of pursuing this dream and career.”

Now, in her first full-time year as a professional triathlete, Lavin said she still has a lot of things she wants to accomplish. She said she is currently the No. 8 U.S. girl triathlete.

“I feel like I haven’t raced as well as I’ve wanted to this year,” Lavin said. “This sport really takes a lot of time to perfect. We’re doing three disciplines [swimming, biking, running], and there’s a lot that goes into having a perfect race.”

This year and the following year will be Lavin’s final two years in the U23 triathlon group. This group has a special discretion for age groups, and once Lavin finishes her time in that group, her competition will open to the Elite Field which includes all adult triathletes.

Before leaving the U23 group, Lavin’s goal is to qualify for the U23 World Championships which take place in November. After Lavin’s next race in Missouri on Oct. 15, she will find out if she was selected to compete in the U23 World Championships.

Lavin said her time as a USD athlete helped her prepare for a career as a professional athlete and ultimately helped her grow her love for triathlon.

“My time at USD gave me an abundance of knowledge of learning myself and what I can handle in a sport, mentally and physically,” Lavin said. “… I also learned how to have fun with the sport, which I definitely took for granted at USD… I’m super appreciative of all those memories that I can look back on and remind myself that this is supposed to be fun and I only do well when I’m having fun.”