Ben Eicholtz was 11 when he completed his first triathlon.
The Dalton native kept competing in the endurance events — which involve swimming, cycling and running — and 29 years later he has become a skilled triathlete who’s good enough to represent his country in international competition.
Eicholtz was a member of the U.S. Triathlon Team that competed at the 2013 International Triathlon Union (ITU) Long Distance Triathlon World Championships on June 1 in Belfort, France.
Eicholtz, 40, who graduated from Dalton High School in 1991, lives in Aliso Viejo, Calif., and works as a pharmaceutical sales representative for Novo Nordisk. In high school, he was a member of the Catamounts’ cross country, swimming and diving, and track and field teams. He attended the University of Georgia and represented that school in the 1995 USA Triathlon National Championships.
But the trip to world championships was a first for Eicholtz, who placed 75th out of 102 competitors in his 40-44 age group.
“It was definitely something on my list of goals and things to do,” he said. “It was a tremendous experience. To represent the United States — I’m never going to be in the Olympics or anything close to that, but to have the USA on my jersey and wear the red, white and blue was a great experience.”
Eicholtz has participated in numerous USA Triathlon National Championships, reaching the top 15 in five of them, but it wasn’t until last year that he competed with the intention of moving on to the next level. He qualified for this year’s world championships with a 15th-place finish in his division at last year’s Red Man Triathlon in Oklahoma City, which served as one of the USA Triathlon National Championships for 2012.
A top-20 finish was needed to qualify for the world championships. Eicholtz’s time of 5 hours, 20 minutes, 56.16 seconds in his race — which consisted of a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike and 13.1-mile run — would have been good enough for 11th, but he was penalized for drafting.