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October 17, 2008

Media Contact: Hannah Buchanan
Public Affairs Specialist
News and Information
The University of Texas at Tyler

Triathlons: A ‘Life Sport’ for UT Tyler Biology Professor

Biology students gather with Bextine after Rose City Triathlon

(From left) Tufts, relay participant Patrick Marshall of Houston, Bextine, relay participant Kyle Spencer of Dallas; and (in front) Brittany Bextine, after the 2008 Rose City Triathlon. Dr. Bextine, inspired by various campuswide outdoor programs and active-lifestyle events, invited some of his biology students and student-workers to participate in the Rose City Triathlon as part of two relay teams.

On most work-day mornings, Dr. Blake Bextine, assistant professor of biology at The University of Texas at Tyler, rides his bicycle to and from campus, but he’s not doing it just to save a little extra money at the gas pumps.

As a three-year triathlete, he trains for various competitions around his already busy university and home life.

“I ride about 22 miles a day, making my daily commute part of my training,” said Bextine, who is an East Texas Triathlete member. “I try to bike every day, and I run in the evening and on weekends. With my job, research life, kids and home life, I try to stick exercise everywhere I can.”  

Bextine, inspired by various campuswide outdoor programs and active- lifestyle events, invited some of his biology students and student-workers to participate in the Rose City Triathlon as part of two relay teams.

Overall, more than 120 people competed as individuals or relay teams. Bextine competed individually and placed 10th overall.

“I have been doing triathlons for a few years now, and I wanted to find a way to get my employees involved in a healthy activity with me – sort of a motivation to get out and exercise,” Bextine explained. “So I talked three of my lab assistants into coming to the triathlon with me and doing a relay. Most of the other people that work in the lab came out to watch and cheer.”

“The triathlon was a great success,” he said. “I think everyone had a lot of fun, and I expect them to compete in another event like this in the near future. In fact, we may make the Rose City Triathlon an annual event for the Bextine molecular biology lab. In the end, the goal was to get the students to have fun and find a positive outlet to reduce stress.”

Bextine called the event a “great team-building exercise.”

“Our relay team had been training pretty hard for about two months. It was fun,” said relay team swimmer and recent UT Tyler alumna Danielle Tufts of Sacramento, Calif., who currently works as a research lab assistant for Bextine. “This was perfect for me because I don’t have a bike, and I hate to run,” she added with a laugh.

Bextine always has had a general interest in fitness. He learned to swim at age 4. As a college athlete, Bextine was captain of the University of North Iowa’s men’s swim team and lettered four years in the sport. But his interest in triathlons didn’t come until about three years ago.

“Swimming is something that I have always been involved with,” he said. “But when I graduated from UNI, I quit swimming and quickly got out of shape.
During my post-doc at the University of California-Riverside, I started to run to get back in shape. I enjoyed training so much that I eventually participated in a couple of half-marathons and marathons. When I got the faculty position here, I was working out at the Herrington Patriot Center one day and met Bob Helper (UT Tyler cross country coach and HPC director).

“He told me, ‘You already run and swim, if you learn how to ride a bike, you can be a triathlete.’ So I started swimming and cycling with Bob and a couple of multi-sport athletes. We have become pretty good friends, and I even work out with him and the cross country team from time to time.”

Bextine also volunteers his time as a fitness swimming teacher two days a week on campus.

“I think fitness is an important part of anybody’s life,” Bextine said. “As college students, it’s sometimes difficult to find the time to exercise and take care of yourself, and it doesn’t get any easier after college. As a 30-something-year-old professor, I hope to have some sort of influence on my students and workers in my classes and lab. ”

Bextine holds a Ph.D. in entomology from Oklahoma State University and a master of science degree in entomology from Texas Tech University. He and his wife Barbara, who also works at UT Tyler, have two children, Brittany, 5, and Bailey, 3 – both who are “aspiring triathletes.”

One of the 15 campuses of the UT System, UT Tyler offers excellence in teaching, research, artistic performance and community service. Nearly 90 undergraduate and graduate degrees are available at UT Tyler, which has an enrollment of more than 6,000 high-ability students at its campuses in Tyler, Longview and Palestine.

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