San Marino High sophomore Kate Chung wears many hats in life: teenager, varsity tennis player, student, fundraiser, daughter and health advocate, just to name a few.
Recently, she added another: triathlete.
Last month, the 15-year-old at San Marino High completed her first triathlon. She swam, biked and ran in this grueling event at Zuma Beach in Malibu. The Oct. 2 event also doubled as an opportunity for her to raise funds for the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
“Originally, I thought it would be a really cool physical and mental challenge for myself,” Chung said. “I just really wanted to push my physicality a little bit and it was for a really great cause, so I just decided to do it.
“I was really nervous in the beginning because it was my first time and there is not really a lot of people like me there. It’s a lot of older people, but when I first got into it, it was so much fun. It was one of the best experiences ever.”
It was difficult, but also exhilarating to be part of, Chung added.
“You are kind of dying, but I feel like it is the atmosphere [that kept me going],” said Chung, who plans to do more triathlons in the future. “You are doing it with so many people and everyone kind of just loves it. The adrenaline is there. It was just so much fun.”
Chung is a participant in the Junior Ambassadors program at the Children’s Hospital, and her entry in the triathlon raised funds to support the lifesaving work at the institution.
“Junior Ambassadors is a bunch of kids that go together under the organizations of CHLA and go out to raise money every year for the kids,” Chung, who raised a reported $1,000, explained.
Swimming was her favorite part of the event and an especially novel experience for Chung.
“It was a really new experience for me to be swimming in the ocean,” Chung said. “I was so proud of myself for being able to accomplish that feat. I think that was the part I was most scared of.”
At school, Chung is a key member of the Titan varsity girls’ tennis team that dominated the Rio Hondo League and made it to the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs.
Along the way, she won the Rio Hondo League doubles title with partner Olivia Hsu. The team aspect of the experience has been paramount for the sophomore in her continuing career as a Titan.
“I feel like tennis outside of school can be really lonely because you are kind of on the court by yourself, or sometimes with a partner in doubles, but I think doing it with a team and such a nice coach is just a great experience overall,” Chung said.
Chung has been seriously pursuing tennis since the summer of sixth grade.
“I remember I was really young and my dad just stuck a racket in my hand and was like. ‘Let’s go play,’ and I was like, ‘OK, sounds good,’” Chung reminisced.
Chung used to dabble in other sports but has now focused on tennis and its capacity to develop her physically and mentally.
“I feel like [tennis] is the most mentally challenging thing I have ever done because you are so alone. It’s just you alone by yourself trying to fight someone,” Chung said. “I feel like when you are alone there is so much negativity sometimes and so much pressure, but I feel like when you overcome that you really truly become a different and better person.”
Along with her athletic activities, Chung is spearheading an ongoing project designed to raise awareness of and opportunities for training people in the lifesaving process of CPR. Chung, whose mother is a heart doctor, sees a need for everyone to learn CPR, including her own emerging generation.
“I kind of want to go into [the] medical [field] when I grow up, so I thought it would be fun to start a CPR awareness club, especially for athletes,” Chung said. “I feel like the younger generation are starting to get cardiac problems, so I was thinking the best way to start spreading awareness was from a really young age, or high school, and just keep on spreading it throughout the community.”
Chung and her burgeoning program recently had a booth at the USC Arcadia hospital.
“That was for more of an older generation where we go out and teach people CPR, but [in the future] I want to do it as a club for the high school kids, especially for athletes,” she said.
Despite all these pursuits, Chung is a dedicated student, carrying at 4.6 GPA in high school.
“I feel like doing so many things at once actually kind of helped my academics because I feel like I am a kind of procrastinator, so when I’m given such a long time to do things I procrastinate,” Chung said. “When I have so much to do it really makes me focus and be efficient. I think [all the activities] really have helped my academics.”
Her favorite subject so far is English, which touches on her love of creativity.
“I love writing about different things and stories and covering different people,” Chung, who is also part of her school’s newspaper and enjoys writing on her own, said. “I think it is really fun.”
She also somehow has time for hobbies and has recently picked up a new one in crocheting.
“I just like getting my hands busy,” Chung said. “It’s kind of addicting too. When you create little things I think it is really fun.”
Chung credits her parents for facilitating all her accomplishments and opportunities.
“I think I am really, really lucky to have such supportive parents,” Chung said. “Everything I’ve ever wanted to do, they have been super supportive and guided me along so well. I’m just so, so lucky to have them.”
The future is wide open for the sophomore as she decides what to do next and where her future will take her, but those plans are already forming inside her head.
“I think I want to do something a little bit medical because I like helping people a lot,” Chung said. “I feel like it is such a great thing to do and I feel like it would really be fulfilling to do as a career.”
First published in the Nov. 17 issue of the San Marino Tribune