When former Rapid City Stevens and current Minnesota track and field star Tamara Gorman was struck by a car in Minneapolis late last year, her athletic priorities shifted.
She came into college hoping to run for the Golden Gophers while also training in triathlons. The training, competitions and school work became too much and she decided to drop triathlon training, until the accident which made her realize she needed to be doing what she loved, which including swimming and biking to go along with running.
Fast forward to earlier this July, after years off Gorman took the silver medal in the women's division of the Continental Cup Triathlon in Des Moines, Iowa and an old friend was there to greet her after the race.
It was Tony Smoragiewicz, a 2012 Rapid City Central graduate and fellow triathlon runner. The four year member of the Michigan track and cross country teams also competed in the triathlon, and also came home with a silver medal.
The two have known each other since their days of swimming with the Rapid City Racers when they were little kids and now they are trying for something special. They both want to represent the United States in the triathlon at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
"It would be a dream come true, and if Tony were to make it too it’d be that much more incredible, I wouldn’t even have words for it," Gorman said.
"I think it would be even cooler because we’ve known each other since we were little kids and have raced together, trained together and hung out," Smoragiewicz said. "Just to represent Rapid City and the Black Hills on the world stage would be incredible to do."
There are three different ways to qualify for the United States Olympic team. First, an athlete can be ranked No. 1 based on points they have accumulated throughout the season, the USA Triathlon committee can select an athlete and there is a World Qualification Race on the Olympic course hosted by the International Triathlon Union.
Smoragiewicz said he is currently ranked seventh while Gorman isn't sure of her ranking. Both said it wouldn't be easy to advance to Tokyo but said that after taking some time off during school from triathlons they are ready for the challenge.
"I feel as though I have the talent and work ethic to make it," Gorman said. "I just started racing again this season but the US women are pretty stacked so it’ll just be a race until the end."
For the two Rapid City kids, even running for Big Ten universities was enough of a long shot. Both said that coming into their college careers they had grand ideas about balancing training for triathlons, running competitive college track and cross country while also being students.
Now, with a degree in hand, Smoragiewicz can focus on the sport he said he's the most passionate about.
"Going into college a goal on the back-burner was for me to make the 2016 Olympics, but running in college and trying to get a degree and doing triathlons was too much, so triathlons got put to the side for a bit," he said, "Now that I’ve graduated I can focus more on triathlons full time, and (making the Olympics) seems like a realistic goal."
As a 2014 graduate of Stevens, Gorman will be going into her senior year at Minnesota in the fall. She tried to balance all three and competed in other competitive triathlons during her freshman year, but said she too had to put one to the side and decided to focus on running.
"I thought I’d be able to balance track and triathlons but after my first year I found out that it was too much with trying to balance," she said. "I decided just to go all in on running and put all my eggs in one basket and focus on school."
Gorman rededicated herself to cross country and was rolling for the Golden Gophers when the season started last Fall, then everything changed.
While riding her bike home from dinner a driver ran a red light while she was in the cross-walk, hitting her with such force that she moved through two lanes of traffic and found her handlebar inside her leg.
To make matters worse, it was only 10 days before Minnesota would host the Big Ten Cross Country Championship.
The IT bands in her legs were severed, not a career-ending injury and certainly not a life-threatening one, which could have been the case.
"I was actually pretty thankful because it could have been a lot worse, but obviously that’s not the greatest thing to happen 10 days before the biggest meet of the season," she said. "That really put things into perspective with where my heart truly lies in sports. I came to realize triathlon is what I enjoy doing and what makes me the happiest and I can’t not be doing that. This summer I decided to try to get back into triathlon, see what I could do and have fun along the way."
She has been having fun, and so has Smoragiewicz, who said he loves triathlons because doing the same thing everyday can become very boring, very fast.
"I like having the variety in training, if you do one sport like running and you’re running 90-100 miles a week it’s easy to get injured and it can get tedious and boring," he said. When you throw swimming and biking in there it’s easier and it makes the training more enjoyable."
Smoragiewicz said he trains about 20 hours a week with multiple other athletes in South Bend, Indiana. He said his week consists of swimming six times (he said it's his weakest event), riding the bike three or four times and going for four or five runs.
Gorman, who is also training with a team but is in Des Moines, said she puts a similar amount of time in, usually swimming 20,000 yards during a week, biking 100-150 miles and running 35-40 miles.
An Olympic triathlon course consists of a mile-long swim, a 40-kilometer bicycle race and a 10 kilometer run.
If the Olympics are meant to be for one or both of them, the two friends agreed it would be an amazing accomplishment.
But they weren't shy, they've been thinking about going to Tokyo together in 2020, and not on vacation.
"It’s definitely something I’m striving for and I know Tony has said that he’s striving to do that too," Gorman said. "It’s a huge goal and obviously something really precious if we were to make it."