Making Good On Vow, Verzbicas Wins World Triathlon

The top American high school miler is now the top junior triathlete.

The top American high school miler is now the top junior triathlete.

Lukas Verzbicas (left) wins the gold at the World Junior Triathlon Championships. He won the event for his friend Kevin McDowell (right). Photo: International Triathlon Union.

He’s one of the fastest American high school runners ever and now he’s the best junior triathlete in the world.

On Sunday in Beijing, China, Lukas Verzbicas won the World Junior Triathlon title. But he didn’t do it for himself; he did it for a friend.

When Verzbicas learned about his friend, Kevin McDowell’s diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, he promised him he’d win the gold. McDowell, 19 years old, was the World Junior Triathlon bronze medalist in 2010 and, until his illness, had been a favorite to win gold this year.

“It was a very emotional time, all just coming together,” Verzbicas said via telephone.  “It’s one of those moments of how sports brings people together. People always say it means a lot more when you are doing it for someone else, and I learned that this time.”

The last of McDowell’s chemotherapy sessions was on August 22. He is planning to return to competition soon.

“It’s indescribable how much [Verzbicas’ promise] helped, how much closer we got through this process, how much meant to me,” McDowell said. “It helped carry me through this.  Today ended it perfect. I have big motivation now.

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