ASU champions invited to White House for photo with president; here, one team member shares her capital experience in Washington
Two weeks ago, the Arizona State University women’s triathlon team won its second consecutive national championship — an honor soon followed by another: an invitation to meet the president at the White House.
It’s an experience few get to have, so kinesiology senior Katie Gorczyca agreed to write about the team’s time in Washington, D.C., for ASU Now to share what it was like. What follows is her travelogue and some of the team’s photos from the trip.
We met at our usual pool location at 7:30 a.m. all matching in our gold pitchfork sweatshirts and white Ultra Boosts. Typically, we would have our bikes packed with us as well, but it was a little different since we’re traveling for another purpose this time. Everyone arrived with a smile because we couldn’t be more excited to visit our nation’s capital — and it’s a bit of relief to not have to stress about competing, but rather a vacation with my favorite people.
At Sky Harbor International Airport, people were curious as to who we were and where we were going. After learning about our win and invitation to the White House, we received congratulations and some wishes of “Good luck!” Since the invitation to the Washington event was fairly recent, we could only get middle seats. Luckily, we all managed to get some homework done on the plane so that we could enjoy our time. It is a great feeling to be a part of such an amazing team. I’ll remember this trip forever, and I will never forget these girls — even when I’m 90 years old.
After our arrival at the Melrose Georgetown Hotel, we changed and walked over to the Kennedy Center for a 7 p.m. National Symphony Orchestra concert. It was pretty cold and windy — we were definitely no longer in Tempe, Arizona. Our seats were in the balcony section, and the concert was beautiful. The only hiccup was when one of the violinists had a string break and had to hand it over to another musician to fix. The concert hall was very large and had good acoustics. After the symphony ended, we walked out and took pictures and then went back to the hotel for bed. We were in for a busy day on Friday!
This was the day of the event! We woke up early to get ready. We needed to wear business attire, closed-toe shoes and warm coats. We gathered in the lobby at 8:40 a.m. and complimented each other on how impressively nice we clean up. It was a little weird to see my teammates so fancy when I’m used to seeing them in bathing suits or athletic clothes.
At the White House, we stood outside for about 15 minutes shivering because it was so cold. There were other championship teams waiting around as well. As we finally started to move, all of my teammates (including me) struggled to look natural while walking in heels because we’d rather be wearing our adidas running shoes. However, I think we managed perfectly.
We went through a security checkpoint where we had to show our identification and walk through a metal detector. After we passed that walkway, we walked by a dog that was sniffing for banned substances and went through another security checkpoint. The military guards were a bit intimidating with machine guns strapped across their chests. We finally made it to the entryway in the middle wing of the White House. One of the guards caught my eye and we kind of squinted at each other because he looked familiar. We realized that we recognized each other from when I was training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and he was a security guard there. I thought that was awesome!
The Sun Devils continued through the White House and were greeted by several friendly guards who told us that we were allowed to explore the middle wing until the event at 11:30 a.m. I checked my coat at the coat check, which we later found out was the presidential movie theater, and then gathered with the team to discuss a plan. We were all so excited to begin exploring that we had to go in every room! Some of us began in the bathroom, and we were impressed by how ornate it was! The napkins to dry our hands were so nice and had the White House seal on them — we kept them as souvenirs!
We continued exploring the rooms, including the library and the china room, taking lots of photos and feeling stoked to have such an opportunity. After I was done roaming the downstairs, I wandered upstairs to the level where the event would be. There were 17 other national championship teams at this event so we got to see other students our age dressed up and in awe as well. However, I think our team looked the best.