Septuagenarian student Ruthie Callahan is a master triathlete whose hard work pays off in fashion as well as athletics. We wanted to know more about Ruthie and her many accomplishments.
Cañada Fashion Department (CFD): You’re a very accomplished athlete. Tell us about the triathlons you compete in.
RC: I started at age 49 doing sprint distances: a half-mile swim, 12-13 mile bike, and a 3.2 mile (or 5K) run. I really liked it! In 2004, at age 53, I did my first Olympic distance. As I aged I realized I was getting better and better.
CFD: Wow, that is so fantastic! Did you have a specific goal in mind?
RC: In order to qualify for the national championship, you must do three triathlons within one year. I completed all three last year. On August 11, I’ll be competing against other national candidates in the 70+ age group. The nationals are in Cleveland.
CFD: That’s incredible. Congratulations!
RC: Thanks. I have a whole team behind me that helps me compete. My husband, Roy Vaughn, is my wingman. He’s with me at all the races—at the starting line and the finish line. He doesn’t mind sacrificing a lot of time, typically three hours per day. I also have a wonderful coach: Penni Bengtson, owner of Finish Line Productions in Boulder Creek.
CFD: How did you end up connecting with Cañada College and the fashion department?
RC: I retired in 2015. I wanted to go back to school and take up sewing again. I found Cañada by way of Britex fabric store. Every year I went with my friend at Christmastime [to Union Square] for lunch and shopping. One year I said, “I think I saw a fabric store on the corner!” They were very gracious. I was like, “Oh, my Gosh! This is amazing! Do you have tailors I could learn from?” They told me the best place to go was Cañada College.
CFD: What class did you take first?
RC: I had an opportunity to take the tailoring course with Ronda, but it was only offered in the fall. The challenge with fall courses is they start in August, which is the heart of my racing season. She said come in January and take Fashion 110 [Beginning Clothing Construction]. It brought all my old skills back, and I learned so many new things! Kathleen and Peggy are wonderful and very supportive. And Ronda is so gracious and patient. It’s just a joy to learn with her.
Later I enrolled in Fashion 116, Tailoring. I found the hardest coat to make so I could learn what it takes to make a really fine garment. My goal is to take Flat Pattern and Fitting next. I really want to improve those skills, and it’s very hard to fit on yourself.
CFD: Tell our readers about how you took part in our Artistry in Fashion event last year.
RC: Yes! Last year I modeled for the fashion show. I wore three garments: a skirt, a blouse and a swishy jacket. That was a lot of fun! [Fashion show producer and emcee] Stacey Harris is great! She just pulls it together that morning and it’s like ‘Wow!’”
CFD: You were great! And we know you’ll be outstanding at nationals! We’ll be rooting for you!
Ruthie’s background is radio broadcast and advertising. She worked at numerous stations in San Jose stations and later in Santa Cruz. She served as a board member of the Santa Cruz Triathlon Association from 2005 to 2008.