Minnetonka High School senior—and NCAA Division II triathlete recruit for New York's Daemen College—Bella Buenting has devoted most of her life to her passion.
As the 2019 Minnesota Multisport Junior Athlete of the Year, an Academic All-State honoree and a recipient of 12 varsity letters between swimming, cross country and track and field, Bella is nothing short of a remarkable student-athlete.
“She is very organized, works extremely hard and is eager to please,” Minnetonka head cross country and track and field coach Jane Reimer-Morgan says.
Competing in triathlons since she was 8 years old, Bella was influenced by her dad, Mike Buenting, a longtime distance runner himself. As a coach and mentor for athletes across the globe, Mike also has experience as a former trainer at Life Time and as a cycling class instructor.
Considering that there were no middle- to high-school range triathlon teams available, Bella spent her time training for six to eight local, regional and national summer triathlon races with her dad, in addition to the three high school sports teams. Working out twice a day, Bella says that each session was done in increments to increase strength without straining the body.
“It is such a difficult sport and it is so unique,” Bella says. “It is rewarding to do something that combines all of the things I love to do in one.”
As an emerging sport with only 34 total college teams (at least 40 teams are required for a sport to become a full-fledged NCAA championship sport), the schools cannot race in designated conferences. Rather, they compete against all colleges in their division (I, II or III) at regional races to qualify for nationals in November.
Daemen College triathlon coach Jon Metz says that with the rate of teams joining, collegiate level triathlons are projected to become a championship sport by the 2021 season.
As one of the first schools to have a team in 2015, Bella says that she is excited to be a part of a program that will grow throughout her time there. Former Minnetonka head swim and dive coach Dan Berve says that there is nothing more rewarding as a coach than to see athletes take their experiences to the next level after high school. “I just love to see them continue to do things so that it sets them up for a lifetime of being healthy and fit,” he says.