What do an associate dean for the College of the Environment, Forestry, and Natural Sciences and a soon-to-be geology graduate with a minor in French have in common? In the case of Scot and Jillian Raab, the answer is an opportunity to represent Team USA at the 2024 World Triathlon championships in Australia. Scot will compete in the aquabike category, where he’ll swim 3km (1.9 mi) and bike 120km (74.6 mi), and Jillian in the long distance category, where she’ll swim and bike the same distances and then run 30km (18.6 mi).
Oh, and also, they’re family.
Scot has been competing in triathlons since the 1980s, when his high school swim coach recommended him to a relay team looking for a third member who could swim competitively. The Watermelon Triathlon required him to swim in a small spring at the bottom of an orange grove in water that smelled of fertilizer and pesticides. Despite these unpleasant initial conditions, he continued to compete in triathlons throughout his life, eventually passing his enthusiasm for the sport on to his daughter.
“It is almost weird when one of us does a race and the other does not,” said Jillian. She began competing alongside her father at the age of 12 and participated in her first triathlon at only 5 years old. “It was a little kid one, and I still had my training wheels on my bike,” she said. During her childhood and adolescence, Jillian kept training and competing in more frequent and more difficult races until she was able to participate in an Ironman race just like her father.
“I remember how he would train and the protein shakes he would make. I wanted to be like him so much I would make all sorts of weird mixtures in the blender and try to drink them,” she said. When Scot completed his third Ironman in Phoenix in 2012, he received a medal and a backpack as prizes. “I wanted the backpack so badly. I even asked for it,” said Jillian, but her father told her she would have to earn her own. That is what inspired her to sign up for the first Ironman she could after turning 18.
Scot has enjoyed competing for as long as he can remember, but his focus is not on winning. “Working hard is its own reward,” he said. “A best time or a great performance is more important than a podium finish.” He appreciates the challenges inherent in triathlons—both the mental focus required to train for six-to-nine months before a competition and the way it gets tougher and tougher to push the boundaries of human ability as he ages.
For Jillian, triathlon competitions and training are relaxing. “It keeps me healthy, busy and my mental capacity clear so I can continue to do as much as I do in school. Without it, I am not sure how I would handle all the things life throws at me,” she said.
Both father and daughter are proud to be representing the United States on the world stage. “The ‘Team USA’ text is more important than where it will read ‘Raab,’” said Scot, who prioritizes being a good and respectful visitor to another country above all else.
To qualify for the team, the duo finished first in their respective age groups at the Clash Endurance Festival in Daytona Beach, Florida. “We swam in a man-made lake inside the Daytona International Speedway,” Scot said of the experience. “The first mile or so and the last mile or so of the bike was on the speedway, pit row, checkered flags, loudspeakers etc. It was pretty cool.”
The Raab family intends to make the most of their trip to Australia—following a serious training regimen with a serious vacation. In addition to attending the World Triathlon, they plan to see the world’s oldest rock and go scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef.
Jessica Clark | NAU Communications