Get in a half-mile swim and that’s a good workout for most.
For Constandinos “Dean” Logus, a half-mile swim is just getting started. After a brisk dip, he hops on his road bike and cycles 12 miles, and for good measure, concludes the workout with a 3.1-mile run.
Not your average day at the Planet Fitness.
Indeed, there’s little average about Logus the triathlete or Logus the collegian.
While he is among the decreasingly rare breed of triathletes drawn as teenagers to the sport, he is among the surely rarer breed of triathletes who must leap a trifecta of learning and developmental disabilities to compete at a high-level in the grueling sport.
In that grueling sport, Logus stands at the threshold of bringing Beacon College surprise acclaim. Beacon — the first accredited higher-education institution to award bachelor’s degrees exclusively to students with learning disabilities, ADHD and high-functioning autistic-spectrum disorders — boasts no athletic programs. And while the NCAA doesn’t sanction triathlons, should Logus prove successful in March in two Florida club-sport competitions he would propel Beacon into the Sunshine State’s triathlon elite.
That unexpected perch perhaps seemed farfetched in his toddling days. Because Logus struggled with understanding and engaging spoken word, his parents had their 2-year-old tested. He wasn’t deaf. More testing helped doctors put a label on it: Logus was on the autistic spectrum. Later, the Loguses learned that wasn’t the lone challenge.
He also was slowed by a central auditory processing disorder, a hearing condition that plagues about 5 percent of school-aged children and “interferes with the way the brain recognizes and interprets sounds, especially speech,” according to KidsHealth.org.
“When you’re confronted with a problem with your child, some things don’t sink in — we go head-on to solve a problem,” says his mother, Jenny. “That’s what we did.”
The Loguses tried therapies, monitored the dyes and processed food products he consumed, and enrolled him in New Jersey public schools.
“We were lucky in New Jersey; they had some wonderful programs,” Jenny says. “For the some kids, being in a special-needs school is great, but Dean was so excited to be in the public-school system, and proud of the school.”
Indeed, Logus went full throttle. He played trumpet in his high-school concert band. Outside school, he joined The Greek Orthodox Youth of America, a ministry to teenagers of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, served as an altar boy at church, and participated in community outreach.
Urged by his mother, a dance instructor, he also gave baseball, soccer, and golf a go. It wasn’t until he pulled on a basketball tank top, however, that Logus got into the zone.
Coming off the bench, he became Holy Trinity’s defensive demon. He sank four shots the season, contributing to his squad’s first-place finish.
“Playing basketball, me and my friends were like the best champions, a united team,” Dean says. “It’s like the NBA.”
As great a high as hoops delivered for him, Logus hit his stride when he discovered triathlons.
The Fanwood-Scotch Plains YMCA had organized a triathlon group. For adults. Because Logus loved swimming and biking, his parents asked whether their teenager could join.
The Y said why not?
With that greenlight, the 15-year-old Logus competed in his first major triathlon. In the annual Randolph Triathlon, he swam a half-mile, biked 16.4 miles, and ran 3.1 miles — covering the course in 2.17 hours — and snagging third place in his age group.
“It was amazing [the] first time for me. Amaze. At the beginning, I was worried. At the end, I wasn’t worried. I kept going like that,” he says, snapping his fingers. “It’s like I wanted badly to do it. That triathlon made my family so proud because I’m like the first [in my family] to have done it.”
He was hooked. He competed in both sprint and Olympic-length triathlons. He lobbied his athletic director at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School to start a triathlon club. No dice.
Later, after Logus picked Beacon College to pursue studio arts, triathloning still crowded his thoughts. His family relocated to Central Florida after locating triathlon opportunities in Clermont. That included connecting Logus with John Hovius, head coach of the University of Central Florida Triathlon Club, who currently works with a handful of Top 5 Olympic-class triathletes.
And for the last 15 months, Logus.
“Dean is great to train and so much fun,” says Hovius, who trains Logus on and off Beacon’s Leesburg, Fla. campus. “He does not understand pacing or pain which means he races with heart. Sometimes this makes him fail, but [it] always pushes him to his body’s limit.”
Working through Logus’ learning differences also pushes Hovius to be a better coach.
Logus speaks in clipped, cluttered cloudbursts of conversation that aren’t always conducive to listener comprehension.
“I had to learn to communicate other than [through] speech; I need to show him myself what I want him to do,” Hovius says. “I have to always bring my bike and other equipment as he wants to see it done correctly so that he can copy it.”
And copy Logus does. Before, during and after the race, he reviews the course, strategies and outcomes — all to boost his next performance.
Last April, he earned first place for his age group at a Clermont triathlon with a combined time of 1:07:31 (swim: 8:04, bike: 27:05, and run: 28:01).
Yet, unfamiliar courses and rapid-fire streams of pre-race instructions can torpedo his meticulous planning.
Sometimes Logus worries whether he memorized the instructions. Or he worries that he might follow the wrong path. Fortunately, he says, police staff courses and can help point the way. So, each race, he presses on.
“I must push hard to myself and try to ignore what I feel scared about,” Logus says.
In 2014, the sport boasted 575,000 active racing triathletes, according to a 2015 Triathlon Business International study, which put the average age of triathletes at 44 — more than double that of the 21-year-old Logus.
Each race is a mini-miracle for his mother.
“I’m just amazed because of all the information he has to take in,” she says. “At the beginning of the race, they’ll shout out directions, sometimes for five minutes straight, and that’s hard for Dean.”
That he’s largely able to absorb this often last-minute information and keep up with the moving parts of a multi-part sequential endurance event always casts him in a new light.
“A million things go through your head [as he competes],” she says, “and then, when I think about it, this kid’s amazing.”
Even more amazing is what Dean potentially could accomplish should he complete club-sport collegiate triathlons in Sarasota and Clermont this month. Though triathlon isn’t a NCAA sport, a baker’s dozen schools in Florida have racing triathletes, Hovius says. Schools need only have a student compete to be part of the series. With successful performances in these two upcoming races, Logus could accumulate enough points to catapult him — and Beacon College — high in the rankings.
A school without sports is a school without uniforms. To support her determined triathlete, Jenny has special ordered a triathlon race suit for her son, emblazoned with Beacon’s “navigator” mascot and the number 1989 — Beacon’s maiden year.
“When I went to college triathlon competitions, they had their own uniforms,” so Logus explains he wanted to wear something representing Beacon just “like the others.”
His goal: “To make sure I’m the first Beacon [student] to do triathlons. The very first.”
Mission accomplished. Now, on to bigger things.
Language for Logus always has been a hurdle.
Yet, he’s discovered competing in triathlons gives voice to his surging spirit to excel for himself, his school — and for parents rooting him on in the stands and throughout his life’s journey.