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When Sarah Hays entered a Charleston triathlon store in 2009, she just wanted to find a pair of bike shorts. She didn’t expect she’d find a best friend, much less one who would dramatically change the trajectory of her life. But that’s exactly what happened when the store manager, Angi Klick, walked the newbie triathlete through the basics of what she’d need for her first race.
“Angi made me feel completely comfortable and normal, and even somewhat competent by the time I left the store,” Hays said of that first encounter. Klick became her go-to for gear advice over the next few years, and when Hays convinced a few friends to train for their first sprint triathlon too, she knew exactly where to send them for advice: the newly-established Charleston chapter of Tri It For Life, a beginner-friendly training group for women. Because Klick was in charge of the chapter, Hays knew her friends were in good hands.
When Klick started the She Tris event series so that Charleston women could train for and participate in races locally (at the time the closest event was in Charlotte, a three-hour drive away), Hays became a regular volunteer. The two worked well together, and a deep and abiding friendship grew.
“Ultimately, in a moment of realizing how much She Tris and the community of women meant to me, I approached Angi in 2019 to partner in She Tris,” Hays said. “Thankfully, Angi said yes.”
“We have very much of a yin/yang relationship,” Klick said. “Each of us has unique strengths and passions that help the company function.” Klick is the creative force, using her background in triathlon retail and race organization to dream up new ways to help beginner triathletes in the sport. Hays is the logistical whiz, who coordinates the ever-growing list of participants, volunteers, sponsors, and community members (“She’s almost always writing something or texting with a thousand questions to keep She Tris moving,” Klick said.) This is reflected in the titles they created each other: instead of CEO and COO, Klick is Champion of Confidence, and Hays, Champion of Enthusiasm.
Their goal for She Tries is simple: to help other women experience the unique support network triathlon can provide. “We think it’s important to give women a reason to try something new in an inviting, rather than intimidating, atmosphere,” Hays said. “It’s also fun to see the more experienced participants invite their friends to participate.”
In the 12 weeks leading up to She Tris events, beginning and experienced women train together, sharing skills and advice. Klick and Hays coordinate information sessions specifically geared to new triathletes, such as how to read a training plan or clinics on fixing flat tires. Through the combination of these experiences, relationships form (much like Hays and Klick’s friendship began with advice on gear) and participants arrive on race day feeling supported by their triathlon community. On race day, everyone stays until the last finisher crosses the line, and all participants share in on the celebration.
In the six years since the founding of She Tris, more than 3,300 women have participated in She Tris events. Hays and Klick are proud of those numbers, because they represent something greater:
“We’re most proud of the true community we’ve built of women wanting each other to succeed and encouraging each other, no matter their level of experience.”