Jupiter Native

racks up cycling gold medals in National Senior Games

By Alex Peterman Special to The Post

A local athlete broke a national record last week, but not for the first time.

Jupiter native Kathy Petrillo has become something of a household name in the cycling world. Last week, she returned home with four gold medals from the National Senior Games in Albuquerque, N.M.

It was a clean sweep of events in the 32nd edition of the nationwide competition. Petrillo, 57, notched first-place victories in the 20K and 40K road races after eclipsing two records in the time trials in the 55-59 age group.

In the 5K time trial, she broke a record set in 2011 by 29.32 seconds. She followed that effort by breaking the 10K time-trial record, previously held for 20 years, by 16.3 seconds.

Between those feats and the 11 medals she has won since 2013, it’s no wonder she has earned the nickname “The Beast.”

That moniker has carried across 40-plus years of athletic training, but it was only recently that Petrillo began cycling on a national stage. Even being new to the sport on that level, her objectives were clear.

“My goal was to be No. 1 in the country,” she said.

It all started with time trials, where she found instant success.

“What I like about time trialing is it’s just me and the clock,” Petrillo said. “There’s no strategy. There are no people. And once I started doing that, there was the Senior Games. A friend said, ‘Hey, there’s a race in Martin County. You should go do it.’”

From there, she went to the state competition, where the record-breaking performances began — despite being the new girl on the block.

“I didn’t know what I was doing,” she said. “I remember going to states and I’m warming up circling, and somebody says, ‘What kind of time do you think you’re going to do?’ And I said, ‘I have no idea. I’ve never done a 5K or 10K.’”

She went on to win the road races, too, even though she hadn’t been planning to enter them after the time trials.

“I figured, Why not? I’ve got nothing to lose — and I also won the road race,” she said. “And I will tell you people weren’t happy.”

Those same people might have called it beginner’s luck in 2013. And they would have been wrong.

Anyone who has met Petrillo will attest to her competitive drive. She went from placing fourth to second to first in USA Cycling, a competition held every two years. Now, her ambitions lie with representing the United States in international races. When she says she aims to be the best, she means it.

Global aspirations aside, the National Senior Games will continue to hold a special place for Petrillo. And this last competition in New Mexico was the best yet, she says.

Victories on the track are one thing. But winning also has afforded her the platform to give back to the community by instilling confidence and positivity in others.

“I’m in awe about it,” she said. “It’s just so inspiring to me. To see people 70, 80, 90 years old doing what I’m doing … that just motivates me. It inspires me. And my goal, honestly, is to inspire other people.

“When someone comes up and says, ‘You inspire me,’ that’s what this is all about. I love to race. I love to win. I love gold medals. But the Senior Games, to me, is really about a lifestyle.”

An authority on nutrition, Petrillo is a strong proponent of good nutritional habits and supplements. She conducts seminars around the nation and has focused on becoming a “Wellness Warrior,” hoping to spread awareness to others as well as give them the tools to be the best version of themselves they can be.

Sounds like a time trial, doesn’t it? Though the parallels might be coincidence, the results are not. Through dedication to her craft and to herself, Petrillo has worked hard to become the best version of herself.

“I’m only competing against myself,” she said. “It’s not only just to win. That’s not even enough, because I’m competing against me.”

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