Angela Bancroft competes in a triathlon.

Many of the best athletes to ever come out of Maine started training in their respective sports when they were a kid.

Angela Bancroft, who will lay claim to being one of those best athletes to ever come out of the state on Sunday when she is enshrined in the Maine Sports Hall of Fame, started training for her sport after she had three kids.

Bancroft made up for lost time by succeeding in triathlons from the start, and she became not just one of the best triathlon competitors in the state, but in the world. She has competed in the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, four times, and has finished in the top 10 of her age group multiple times.

“It’s fantastic. I’ve been four times now, and each experience is a little bit different than the one before,” Bancroft, who lives in Paris Hill, said. “It’s very, very hard. And the thing about it is you have to be at the top of your game to qualify, to earn your spot to race there. So when you head over there, you feel pretty confident and sure of yourself. And then when you arrive on the island, you quickly realize ‘Okay, everyone else here earned their spot as well,’ and you’re with really the best Ironman athletes out there. So it’s extremely humbling to see all these people who are just really, really strong and ready to race just as fierce as well as you are.”

Bancroft’s triathlon career came from humble beginnings. She swam competitively growing up, competing for both Cape Elizabeth High School and the University of Vermont, then started competing in road races — including marathons — after graduating.

Then it was time to start a family, but Bancroft soon began to get that itch for competition.

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“In 2006 — my brother had done a couple (triathlons), I guess — and I started to miss just the scene of racing and being a competitive athlete again,” Bancroft said. “Though I had three very small children, something said to me inside that I could give it a try. I really just jumped into one. I didn’t have a bike or anything like that. The biking leg, at that point, was completely new to me. I just started. I just jumped in one one summer and really loved it, and had some success and decided to just keep going with it, and it spiraled from there pretty quickly, I guess. This was all just because I missed competing and racing.”

Bancroft’s career almost stopped as soon as it started. She crashed on her bicycle while training one day and tore her rotator cuff in her shoulder. A doctor told her she was done swimming, among other activities, but Bancroft didn’t want to accept that fate. So she went to see a second doctor, who suggested surgery, which she did, and after some rehab she was back to full health.

She competed in a half-Ironman triathlon the following summer and fared well. So the obvious next step was to go the full distance, which was a goal of her’s even before the injury.

“My friends and I decided we would sign up for an Ironman before we turn 40,” Bancroft said. “That was our thought, was let’s do one before 40, the kids are at a good age, and it felt like a really good challenge.”

Not only did Bancroft do well in that first full-distance Ironman, she did so well — placing at the top of her age group — that she qualified for the World Championship.

Making it to Hawaii once wasn’t enough for Bancroft. She had to get back to the World Championships.

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“I thrive on setting goals, and I achieved that first goal and decided ‘well, why don’t I try it again and see if I can go faster, see if I can place higher?’ And it just kept going from there,” Bancroft said. “I just grew to love it more and more.

“It kind of was just a progressive thing that I didn’t really know I was going to have happen.”

Bancroft said her induction into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame is as unexpected as the meteoric rise and success of her triathlon career.

“This is not something that I would ever imagined being honored with. It’s truly incredible,” Bancroft said. “I feel like I’m in a little different position than many of them because I was never a professional athlete or Olympian in any way. Just my amateur, normal, every-day athlete status. It feels quite huge and overwhelming to me. I’m quite honored. It’s a big deal for me.”

Bancroft said she feels like she will be entering the Hall of Fame on behalf of all her fellow triathlon competitors. She said the sport hasn’t always been at the forefront of athletics, and she’s not the only Mainer to accomplish success in the sport.

And while she will figuratively be sharing the stage with her fellow competitors, she will literally be sharing it with her sister-in-law, former Olympian Leslie (Bancroft) Krichko.

“To share it with my sister-in-law, who when I first met her 20-something years ago, and my husband told me she was in the Olympics twice, that blew my mind. She’s just an amazing athlete I’ve always admired,” Bancroft said. “So to share it with her is very incredible.”

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Angela Bancroft competes in a triathlon.Angela Bancroft in Hawaii.

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