Iron woman

Sarah Melanson, now a sophomore at West Virginia University, at 17 became the youngest female to complete an Ironman triathlon. She is featured in this month's Project ME at WVU.

Sarah Melanson runs – miles and miles in a row – and never tires. In fact, she swims and cycles like that, too.

Preparing for Ironman triathlons is the first thing she does when she wakes up in the morning — and it’s probably what she dreams about, as well.

To Melanson, a West Virginia University sophomore studying occupational therapy from Annapolis, Md., hard work is everything.

“Once I started competing in Ironman competitions, I just couldn’t stop. It just became part of what I do every day,” she said. “It’s hard to think about not doing it.”

At just 17, she became the youngest female to ever complete an Ironman distance triathlon — combining a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run.

“I’m not the tallest person, and I’m not the oldest or the most experienced, but I was able to complete an Ironman,” she said. “I just knew once I did it, I wasn’t going to quit.”

Melanson says Ironman races force you to push through pain. She has become tougher from it. And stronger. Melanson has learned all of this, she admits, because of her ability to persevere through the cycling accidents, the jellyfish stings, the miles upon miles upon miles. Now, she’d like to teach others that same toughness.

“I know what my body can do. I think it’s a really good feeling to help other people recognize what their bodies can do,” he said. “Maybe they can even surprise themselves not knowing what they’re capable of.”

Her story is just one of many in which students at WVU found what they’re most passionate about while studying at the university. You can read more about her and watch a video at

The project will unveil a new student story each month. If you know of a student who has a great story to tell, submit your suggestion for Project ME at

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