By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - Like a lot of his fellow Auburn student-athletes, Erik Armes aspires to turn professional after graduation.
Unlike his peers, Armes wants to be a pro triathlete.
“With triathlon, you can have all of these different sponsorships,” Armes said. “You have your bike sponsor, helmet, sunglasses, nutrition, clothing. And when you start adding up all of those contracts, the top guys are making several hundred thousand dollars a year. And the guys who are below or down are still making a great living.”
Armes, a redshirt freshman on Auburn’s cross country team, grew up in Coronado, California, a beach community in San Diego.
He contemplated swimming in college but figured running would better prepare him for his chosen career.
“Basically in triathlon, what it comes down to is the run,” Armes said. “Whether you’re going to win the race. Swimming will always be there. I just have to keep in touch with that. But if I took four years off of running, that would be a struggle to get back into. So I figured this would be a good kind of launch pad for me to develop my run.”
Two years ago, Armes journeyed more than 2,000 miles to Auburn for his recruiting visit. He was in Jordan-Hare Stadium when the Tigers beat LSU 41-7.
“That was amazing,” he said. “My dad was here with me. I’ve never experienced anything like that. Got to roll Toomer’s, and it was just incredible.”
Seeing all of that fanfare for a football game was something new for a California kid.
“Football definitely wasn’t huge through high school,” Armes said. “In California, the big sports are swimming, track and water polo. High school water polo is kind of like football here. Everyone revolves around water polo.”
After the visit, Armes was sold on the plains. But his transition to college was not without challenges. Tendonitis. Mononucleosis. A tonsillectomy. He redshirted in cross country, indoor and outdoor track.
“It was a rough year, but it’s good to be finally running now,” he said.
The social adjustment from SoCal to EastAl was easier.
“Everything is totally different. People down here are so much nicer. I love home, it’s so much fun, but the hospitality down here is incredible,” he said. “My hometown is stereotypical, laid back, surfer California beach town. It’s awesome. But I go into the city or up to LA, and you wave at someone, they’ll look at you like, ‘What are you doing?’ Down here, everyone’s waving at me in the mornings. I’m trying to wave back or say ‘hi’ to them. I describe it as very welcoming.”
Another aspect Armes enjoys: being part of Auburn’s cross country team.
“It’s amazing. I can’t describe the feeling of racing knowing that your points are going to count for a team score,” he said. “And you’re racing for your teammates and they’re racing for you. It’s a pretty selfless sport sometimes. You’re not out there by yourself at all. People don’t really view cross country as a team sport but it is very much of a team sport. Very tactical.”
Armes runs 70 miles per week, what he calls a “lower mileage schedule” for a cross country runner. To stay sharp in the pool, he swims twice a week. Cycling, he says, comes naturally and can be resumed after college.
For Erik, being a triathlete is a family tradition.
His father, U.S. Marine Corps Col. Stephen Armes, is a two-time California state champion who competes on the U.S. Military National triathlon team.
“He’s been able to mentor me and guide me through my career,” Erik said. “He’s been a good role model.”
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer