Incline alumna Rye defies odds, wins Xterra triathlon

Justin Scacco / Sierra Sun
Incline alumna Kate Rye races to a first-place finish at Sunday's XTERRA Lake Tahoe off-road triathlon.
Provided/Harry LeFrak/LeFrak Photography

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Incline High School alumna Kate Rye is lucky to be alive, let alone going out and winning triathlons.

Rye, 23, is one of the most decorated high school swimmers in Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association history along with being a standout cross-country runner. She later swam for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, but after a move to Reno following her freshman year, Rye found a new passion — triathlons.

Nearly two years ago, while training on her bicycle Rye was headed downhill on a road in Reno. The car coming in the other direction never saw her, and made a left turn, t-boning Rye and changing the young athlete’s life in an instant.

“I shouldn’t have survived,” she said, later reeling off a list of injuries that included nearly every rib being broken, spinal fractures, both lungs collapsing, a grade 5 liver laceration, and a blood clot by her heart.

She would spend the next five weeks in a hospital. At first Rye, the only swimmer in Nevada high school history to win four straight 50-yard freestyle state championships, couldn’t sit up on her own. In the coming weeks she’d relearn to walk, but doctors, however, cautioned the road to recovery would be six to eight months.

Rye had other plans. Not only was she going recover, but it was going to be lightning fast and to a level that would allow her to again compete collegiately.

In early October she was out of the hospital, staying with her parents in Incline as she recovered. In November, she moved back out and began going out on short, slow runs. By February, she’d joined the University of Nevada, Reno Women’s Cross-Country team.

“It was an insane recovery,” said Rye. “It was obviously a long, hard process, but I had so much support. The doctors they were like this is a miracle that you survived, and the fact that you’re having a full recovery is another miracle.”

The following year, as a senior, Rye set a personal best in the 6-kilometers, posting a time a time of 21 minutes, 44 seconds, which is 18th fastest in school history. She graduated from college this summer with a double major in psychology and Spanish.

In recent months months, Rye said she has gotten back into triathlon racing, and in June won the shorter, sprint version of the Tahoe Off-Road Triathlon in Tahoe City.

On Sunday, Rye returned home to Incline Village where she upped the ante, capturing first place by nearly seven minutes on a full course at Big Blue Adventure’s XTERRA Tahoe off-road triathlon.

Kate Rye peddles along the bike course during Sunday’s XTERRA Lake Tahoe off-road triathlon.
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“It is the greatest gift that I could’ve asked for,” said Rye on being able to compete at a high level after the accident. “Just growing up in Tahoe and Incline and growing up as an athlete, it’s part of who I am. It’s what I love to do. I know it sounds cliché but the accident did shift my view on life.”

At Sunday’s race, Rye was the second woman to finish the 1,500-meter swim off the shore of Sand Harbor. She was then the fourth fastest to complete the 35.5-kilometer off-road mountain bike ride, and was the second fastest woman to finish the 10-kilometer run. Rye reached the finish line of Sunday’s triathlon with a time of 3 hours, 32 minutes, 41 seconds.

“Even though I’m still very competitive and I love to compete, I really do it because it’s fun and it’s such a great community of people … another piece of it too is when I run or ride or swim, my mind thinks of that girl in the hospital that couldn’t even sit up on her own. Then I think of all the other people who weren’t lucky enough to survive accidents or even fully recover from those injuries. I’m lucky to get to do that, so I might as well enjoy it and do it for those other people.”

Other top local finishers from Sunday’s XTERRA event included Incline Village’s Kristen Miller, 48, claiming 11th place with a time of 4:21:28. Miller was first in her age division.

On the men’s side, Truckee’s Vincent DiMassa took second overall with a time of 2:59:01. DiMassa, 29, was the second fastest on the bicycle and fifth fastest to finish the run. South Lake Tahoe’s Blake Herrmann, 35, finished in seventh place, reaching the finish line in 3:05:06. Olympic Valley’s Matthew Monnot, 42, took ninth place with a time of 3:15:04. Reno’s Mike Sooder, 49, won the triathlon with a time of 2:58:01.

In the shorter sprint race, Tahoe City’s Laura Ward, 57, took second place with a time of 3:26:55. Truckee’s Caitlin Kerwin, 32, was fourth place with a time of 3:42:55.

The day’s competition also featured an aquabike race. South Tahoe’s Alan Reynolds, 59, took in the event that featured a 1.5-kilometer swim and 35.5-kilometer bike ride, reaching the finish line in 2:51:00.

Local race organizers Big Blue Adventure will return this weekend with the Lake Tahoe Triathlon. The annual triathlon takes place at Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park on Tahoe’s west shore. Competition gets underway Saturday with a sprint triathlon. Sunday features a half triathlon, Olympic triathlon, and aquabike race, and a biking and running only duathlon.

Cyclists will be along Tahoe’s West shore on Highway 89 on Saturday and Sunday. Sunday’s event takes riders from Sugar Pine Point State Park past Emerald Bay and bike. Racing gets underway at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, and 6:30 a.m. on Sunday.

For more information, visit

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun, a sister publication of the Tribune. He can be reached at

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