Athlete and McCallie School alumni Ryan Schumacher is back in Chattanooga this weekend to compete in the Ironman 70.3 World Championship.
“I almost have a home court advantage; I know the roads well, and I know the course,” the Stanford University graduate said.
Schumacher and his family moved to Chattanooga for high school, and his parents loved it so much, they’ve stayed here.
“My parents are heavily involved [in Ironman],” he said. “Both are volunteers. My grandmother is in town. She came from San Diego to watch and help. My mom is one of the volunteer captains, so it’s truly a family affair.”
Here are four things to know about Schumacher, who is participating in the age group portion of the event, but has recently qualified for elite/professional status.
He couldn’t compete at a varsity level while in high school.
Schumacher, who went to McCallie from 2007 to 2011, attended on an academic scholarship.
A rule from the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association prevents students from competing at a varsity level if they get money other than need-based financial aid.
That rule was meant to prevent schools from abusing academic scholarships by offering them to students who might not have the grades.
Sports Illustrated reported on the situation, and Schumacher said some people tried to petition for a rule change, arguing that students prove they are meeting the required scholastic merits, but that effort failed.
“So I had to run JV, which was OK, but when you’re running JV, it’s a little bit harder to get your name out there,” he said. “You’re not competing in state championships for your school.”
Schumacher found time to compete in other races after the cross-country season ended, though, and when he got into his dream school, Stanford, he considered walking onto the team there.
An injury led him to triathlons.
An injury prevented him from joining the college cross-country team, and Schumacher turned to swimming because he couldn’t run.
“Swimming seven days a week on your own is horribly boring,” he said.
So he connected with his school’s triathlon team and loved the group.
“My body felt healthier not pounding my legs 80 miles a week,” he said.
He didn’t initially realize he qualified for the elite level.
This weekend, Schumacher isn’t competing in the elite/professional groups, but he may soon be on that level.
He recently moved to Philadelphia, where he did a race that had a prize of $20,000.
“That’s one of the ways you can qualify for your pro card—being a top three overall amateur in a race where a pro prize purse is $20,000,” he said.
But he didn’t realize that at the time.
Instead, he was sitting with a friend, hanging out on the river in Philadelphia and drinking a beer when she told him she thought he qualified.
They looked it up and she was correct.
He hasn’t submitted the needed documents to go up to the pro level, but he thinks he will. First, he wants to enjoy the world championships in the town he considers home.
For this weekend’s event, even age group competitors had to qualify to participate in the world championships. Schumacher did so by competing in last year’s 70.3 event and finishing well enough in his age group.
His day job involves working for the good of public health.
The human biology major designed his college concentration at Stanford to focus on promoting wellness among children.
“I’m really interested in how we can prevent chronic illness, particularly obesity and other food-related health issues, in children,” he said.
His passion for health fits well with his athletic abilities, he said.
Currently, he’s a research assistant at Penn Med and is working on a project to test the efficacy of a farm share program as an employee benefit, he said.