Local women’s triathlon club is biggest in nation
Nine years ago, four women, Colleen Fossett, Michelle Powell, Lydia DelRosso and Maureen Brigham, sat around a table in the Blue Plate Restaurant in Mullica Hill to discuss how to create a triathlon club and raise money for charity. It is now the biggest women’s triathlon club in the nation — and they just won an award for it.
Triathlon Business International hosted a conference Jan. 26–28 in Tempe, Ariz., to honor triathlon clubs across the nation. TBI is a multisport industry organization comprised of businesses and individuals who support the growth of triathlon as a business and a sport.
Mullica Hill Women’s Tri Club was nominated a month prior to the conference in the category of Fastest Growing Tri Club.
The Mullica Hill group was the only all-female club nominated. The award was presented by Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona’s 9th congressional district: a triathlete.
“I’m excited to see so many women across the country embracing triathlons. The Mullica Hill Women’s Tri Club is a great example of women’s strength in the sport of triathlon, and it was an honor to present them with the award for fastest-growing club this year,” Sinema said.
While most members reside in New Jersey, in the group’s lifetime, it has seen the number of members grow to, at its peak, 900 who span six states. The club has also raised money and awareness for organizations such as the Ovarian Cancer Foundation and the Melanoma International Foundation.
Recently, the group was dubbed a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
All of these aspects are the result of one thing, the core message: empower women, strengthen communities and transform lives.
The message is also in the name, Tri Club.
“It’s more about the opportunities,” member Natalie Matthias said.
A club member does not have to plan to be in a triathlon; she just needs a desire to better her physical fitness.
Matthias was at first hesitant to join. She was thinking, “There’s no way I can do this.”
Instead, she volunteered during the 2011 Queen of the Hill Triathlon, an event created by the club, by directing bikers at turns on the path.
“I had an Olympic triathlete image in my head,” she said. “But that day, I wasn’t seeing that. I saw a grandmother on a bike with a basket on the front. I thought, if she is doing this … what is my excuse?”
She joined soon after in 2012. Now she and her daughter partake in triathlons together.
“It’s great. It’s multi-generational,” she said.
Still, the word triathlon can be intimidating to many people.
However, Fossett has found a way to lessen the impact of the term.
“I ask people what they are afraid of,” she continued. “If you like to swim or bike, then you are already part of the way there.”
She maintains that while a triathlon is its own entity, people may already be experienced in some aspect of the challenge. And, like stated before, a member can join merely for the camaraderie and support that are inherent in the group dynamic.
MHWTC is not a physical gym, but rather a community of women who share the same goals of becoming “their best selves,” Fossett explained.
The group has a website with a weekly calendar and a Facebook page by which they communicate. Members can meet up and workout together to achieve whatever the common goal may be.
One member, Alicia DiFabio, was so taken aback by the popularity of the group, she wrote a book titled “Women Who Tri: A Reluctant Athlete’s Journey Into the Heart of America’s Newest Obsession.” The book was published by VeloPress in 2017.
“I wrote my book after witnessing the explosion of the Mullica Hill Women’s Tri Club right in my proverbial backyard. As I watched this club’s popularity skyrocket, and the pink shirts take over my town, I became fascinated by this phenomenon,” she said. “The rapid growth of the club was astonishing, and it wasn’t just a fad. Women were getting hooked, and pulling each other in. What was more interesting to me was that the club and the sport of triathlon wasn’t attracting the type of person I initially envisioned. There were hundreds of women of all ages, shapes, sizes and fitness levels with various life circumstances. The sport of triathlon, and the magic of this club, were transforming the lives of hundreds and hundreds of women. … Really, the Mullica Hill Women’s Tri Club was the starting point.
“However, I also learned that what was happening in Mullica Hill was really a microcosm for what was happening around the country and the world. Triathlon was experiencing significant growth, particularly at the recreational level, and women were leading the charge.”
Membership enrollment is now open at www.mullicahilltriclub.com. Membership includes invitations to club workouts and events such as Newbie 101, Bike Safety Workshop, Running Workshops, Mock Triathlons, Fabulous Friday Night 5K and swimming at Lake Gilman. Members also enjoy discounted rates to many events and more.
“The MHWTC is truly unique because it is a group of women who lift each other up, support each other and empower each other to be the best versions of themselves they can possibly be. Whatever your excuses, your life circumstances, your fears … there is someone in that club who can relate to you. There is someone who has been where you have been, or had even more to overcome than you,” DiFabio said.