When Caitlin Harty competed in her first triathlon during her sophomore year at the University of Evansville, she enjoyed the grueling series of events.

The 2010 graduate of Dublin Scioto High School is now preparing to represent the United States in the International Triathlon Union's World Triathlon Grand Final on Sunday, Sept. 17, in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

"This means a lot to me," said Harty, who lives in Powell. "I've grown up wanting to go to the Olympics, wanting to represent my country because I have studied abroad and I've seen the culture of different countries and we're just so blessed here in America to be the land of the free, and it means the world to me to be able to represent this country."

Harty competed in the USAT Nationals in August 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska, finishing the three events in the sprint division -- a 750-meter swim, a 20-kilometer cycling race and a 5K run -- in 1 hour, 17 minutes, 19.87 seconds to place 11th of 44 competitors in the women's 20-24 age group.

The top 10 finishers in each age group qualified for the World Triathlon Grand Final, but Harty earned a qualifying spot after one of the athletes who finished ahead of her decided not to compete in the world event.

Because Harty turned 25 in May, she has been bumped up to the 25-29 age group for the World Triathlon Grand Final, where she again will compete in the sprint division. The Olympic division consists of a 1,500-meter swim, a 40K cycling race and a 10K run.

"At nationals, I was just there to have some fun," Harty said. "I was just using it as a training weekend for my Ironman Louisville training, and it just so happened that I had the best race of my life, (my) fastest time."

Harty, who has competed in about 20 triathlons along with seven half-ironman events and a full ironman event, was a standout swimmer at Scioto, giving her an advantage in the swimming portion of the triathlon.

She also competed on the women's swimming and diving team at Evansville, where she earned an undergraduate degree in athletic training. She received her doctorate degree from Evansville in physical therapy earlier this year.

"I've always been a competitive swimmer," Harty said. "I swam at the University of Evansville and then for my sorority, I (competed in) bike races all through my undergrad. My sophomore year, I decided to pick up running and start doing triathlons. I've been hooked ever since."

Harty, who worked with the training staff of the NFL's Los Angeles Rams as well as with Major League Soccer and collegiate players while in pursuit of her doctorate, started working as a physical therapist at Orthopedic ONE in Upper Arlington last month.

Her daily training regimen for the World Triathlon Grand Final begins around 4:30 a.m. with riding a stationary bike at home, followed by swimming at an area fitness facility before heading to work at Orthopedic ONE. She completes her training with a 2-mile run after work.

"We're extremely happy," said Matt Harty, Caitlin's father. "We're very proud of Caitlin's hard work and dedication to the sport, and at the same time staying focused on her schooling, her education and now that she's working as a true doctor of physical therapy. It just proves that hard work and dedication pay off. She has a lot of time invested in the training."

Caitlin Harty said her trip to the Netherlands will cost about $2,000. While some competitors receive monetary sponsorship, she has received donations and sponsorship through services like apparel, training plans and race kits.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I wasn't going to let the cost stop me from going," she said.

"I've put in the training, I've put in the hard work, and now I'm just going to try to have some fun."

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank