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Adam Bohach, 27, Clinton, Iowa
A high school science teacher, Bohach has a thing or two to teach his students about being a fast triathlete. He wrapped up his final amateur season ranked first among men ages 25-29 by USA Triathlon (USAT), scooping up big wins at the Hy-Vee 5150 U.S. Championships in September and topping his age group at Ironman Racine 70.3 (his 4:12:06 finish was good enough for ninth overall, beating several pros). Bohach is also an accomplished runner, clocking 2:26:25 at Grandma’s Marathon in June and a 25:45 8K on the roads in 2010. Bohach, a biology major while at Luther College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is clearly a student of the sport: His senior project involved VO2, lactic acid, and cortisol levels in endurance trained athletes, for which he was awarded an NCAA post-graduate scholarship.
Jason Pedersen, 24, Simi Valley, Calif.
A 14:37 5K runner, Pedersen took up triathlon in earnest after graduating from Northern Arizona University last spring. He swiftly excelled in the sport, capturing the amateur title at July’s San Francisco Triathlon before placing fourth overall at USAT’s Age Group Nationals in August. This season, he’ll focus on draft-legal races, including ITU events in Clermont (March), Dallas (June), and Buffalo (September) with the hopes of earning an Olympic berth in 2016. “[Triathlon] gave the dwindling flame within me got a shot of fresh air,” says Pedersen. “I feel like I have been given a second chance at my dream to be an Olympian.”
Dan Feeney, 21, Wilmington, Del.
This time last year, Feeney was a star runner on the University of Delaware’s track team. But when the school eliminated the men’s running programs, Feeney turned to triathlon—and has hardly looked back. He earned his pro license upon placing third place among all age-groupers at the Nickel City Triathlon in September despite suffering a broken wrist after being hit by a car just days before. In 2012, he’ll stick mostly to draft-legal racing while working towards his goals of winning Collegiate Nationals and U23 Nationals. “Until last May, I did not put in a lot of time on the bike or in the pool,” says Feeney. “I am very excited to race this with a full winter of cycling and swimming. It has made me a lot stronger.”
Karl “Rudy” Kahsar, 23, Boulder, Colo.
2011 was a banner year for Kahsar, who became first person to ever win Collegiate Nationals and the Age Group National Championships in the same season (he also finished second among amateurs at the Hy-Vee 5150 U.S. Champs). A chemical engineering Ph.D. student at the University of Colorado, Kahsar will continue to race at the collegiate level while also testing the waters in non-drafting events, including the 5150 series. He plans to make his pro debut at Rev3 Knoxville in May and looks forward to the challenge. “I didn’t go pro for anything other than new competition,” he says. “People ask if I am going to train more now, or get a heart rate monitor; as far as I am concerned, the only change is what wave I will start in.”
Gregory Close, 28, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Close capped his amateur career at the Ironman World Championships, where he turned in a 9:11 lifetime best performance, good enough for sixth in the men’s 25-29 age-group. The former collegiate rower—and 2008 Long Course Duathlon Age Group World Champion—also boasts a 4:16 half-Ironman PR. He’ll kickstart his rookie pro season on February 12 at Ironman 70.3 Panama, then plans to race two Ironmans (New Zealand and Brazil) to pick up points for a return trip to Kona. While eager to embrace his pro status, Close is practical about managing his expectations. “I’ll [probably] get my butt kicked. But I’m excited to compete, see where I stack up against the best of the best, and then train harder so that someday soon I can be the one doing the butt kicking,” he says.