Lots of lots of cheers from Tokyo to Malibu to Cedarville.
It’s been quite a month for Grace Norman, the 23-year-old paratriathlete who grew up outside of Jamestown and graduated from Cedarville University:
• Saturday, competing against over 200 able-bodied women in the USA Triathlon Club Collegiate National Championships in Malibu, Calif., and swimming, cycling and running twice the distance she does in her usual paratriathlons, Norman finished third overall to win a bronze medal.
The only woman athlete in the field with a prosthetic, she swam 1,500 meters, biked 40 kilometers and then ran a 10K. She finished in 2 hours and 14.03 minutes.
Marissa Saenger, of the University of California San Diego, was first (2:10.51)l, and Kathryn Kennedy of Cal Berkeley was second (2:11.23)
Cejay Walker, a junior track and cross country runner at Cedarville from Somerset, Pa., finished 49th in the collegiate men’s division.
• On August 28, Norman won a silver medal in the triathlon at the Tokyo Paralympics. Using a prosthetic lower left leg — the result of a birth defect — she competes in the PTS5 division of the Paralympics. In 2016 she won the gold medal in the paratriathlon at the Rio de Janiero Paralympics in Brazil.
• On September 1, her parents, Robin and Tim Norman, as well as other family members, her boyfriend and representatives of Cedarville University gathered at Dayton International Airport to give her a surprised welcome home from Japan.
The following day Cedarville, where Norman had competed in track and cross country before graduating in 2020 with a degree in nursing, celebrated her at a press conference on campus.
• And on September 4 in Cincinnati, she accepted the marriage proposal of boyfriend Evan Taylor, a celebrated jazz trumpeter from Michigan, who now teaches music at Broward University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
The couple met in Utah when she was training for the Tokyo Games and he was at the University of Utah, completing his master’s degree in jazz under the guidance of Grammy-nominated trumpeter and arranger Kris Johnson.
Taylor got his undergrad degree at Michigan State under Guggenheim fellow and award-winning trumpeter Etienne Charles.
Norman has music of her resume, as well, and once sang with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
The couple has not yet set a wedding date. They’re waiting for next year’s triathlon schedule to come out.
Norman will be honored next week at a triathlon in Chicago and will compete in the World Championships in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates in early November.
Although she already had graduated from Cedarville, she was allowed to compete in the Collegiate Championships Saturday because the 2020 event, for which she was registered, was first postponed and then canceled due to the COVID pandemic.
The 2021 event was originally scheduled for Arizona in April, but COVID again postponed it until this weekend, when it became part of the Malibu Triathlon.
This was only the second time in her career that Norman has completed a triathlon at the Olympic distances. Her first was the 2019 Collegiate Club Nationals at Tempe, Arizona, when she finished 26th among the women with a 2:25.21 time.
The Collegiate Club Nationals in Malibu marked the end of Norman’s performances under a Cedarville University banner and she spoke about that to reporters afterward:
“Racing here was super fun,” she said. “This is an amazing, fun course, beautiful, the girls did not disappoint with their competitiveness.
“The bike felt like a lot longer than I wanted it to and so did the run, so that was a little bit painful. I felt like I had enough time to get into my zone and tick off the miles and it ended up going a lot better than I expected.”
“I’m grateful for all that Cedarville University has done for me, so to come and race one last time, to close this chapter on collegiate racing, is incredible.”