Triathlon in training wheels?
The latest trend in youth sports has them unplugged, off the couch and challenging themselves, even before they’re old enough to tie their shoes.
“My son did his first triathlon at 5,” said Mansfield mom Sabrina Caverly. “We signed him up on a whim because he was an amazing swimmer. At that time he even still had training wheels on his bike. He’s loved triathlons ever since then.”
It turns out, little Vance is not alone. Triathlons have never been more popular, but while adult involvement has continued at a steady 2-3 percent growth each year, the youth races are increasing 12-15 percent year over year, according the governing body USA Triathlon. Parents and kids alike are finding the sport as a fun activity that gets the whole family involved, and organizations are responding by offering events tailored specifically to the pint-sized athletes, like Mansfield’s Red, White & Rockin Tri, which debuted last year.
“There are tons of running races in Mansfield every weekend, but we kept hearing from parents that there wasn’t anything competitive for kids,” said Angie Henley, special event manager for Mansfield Parks & Recreation.”They could do a fun run, but so many of our local kids are in sports and used to being more active and really love that competition, so we wanted to tap into that and give them a fun option. The response has been overwhelming. Weeks after the race, people were still coming up to me saying how much fun it had been, and how excited they and their kids were to do it again.”
That inaugural race in 2016 registered more than 100 participants, but this year’s event is on pace to exceed those numbers considerably. The fully USAT sanctioned event has two divisions. Juniors (6-10Y) start with a 130-meter swim, followed by a 3.1 mile bike ride and half-mile race. Seniors (11-15Y) swim for 200 meters, bike for 6.2 miles and run a full mile. Swimming portions take place in the Lazy River of Hawaiian Falls Waterpark, the running is around the ballparks of Big League Dreams Mansfield Sportspark and the bicycle race is around the complex that contains both parks.
The age-appropriate distances and kid-friendly approach to the event make it the perfect activity for seasoned athletes and beginners alike, say organizers
“The Mansfield Red, White & Rockin Kids Tri is a great way to introduce kids to the sport of triathlon and for experienced youth triathletes to test their abilities,” said Raul Najera, President/CEO RunFAR Racing Services, Inc, who coordinates the race. “The swim at Hawaiian Falls has two distances and is safe for all levels of swimmers. The bike course is completely blocked off to traffic and the run course is one of its kind, running through all the famous baseball fields at Big League Dreams. The Rockin Kids Tri is also a great event to show kids how to set a goal and use the time leading up to the race to train and make sure they’re ready for race day.”
Sabrina Caverly agrees. “I think, for Vance, the triathlon is a huge confidence builder that is fun at the same time. As a parent, any time you see your child succeed at something is priceless. And when they struggle, you have a chance to help them and set them up for success the next time. As a family, it was amazing to see the community out to support the event. We are very proud Mansfield residents.”
All registered participants receive full-day admission to Hawaiian Falls following the race, a Custom Tech Shirt, finisher medals to all participants, post-race food and other great prizes. Family members will have the opportunity to purchase discounted tickets to Hawaiian Falls the morning of the race to enjoy the rest of the day together at the park. Volunteers are on hand to cheer the kids on and help with transitions between events. For information about volunteering, contact Angie Henley at (817) 804-5795.
Mansfield Parks and Recreation is also offering a class designed to help aspiring competitors feel comfortable and confident in completing a kids’ triathlon. Each session will teach different aspects of the triathlon, including transitions, improving personal time and overall athletic fitness. The class registration fee includes the training class, a practice triathlon and registration to the Red, White & Rockin’ Tri Kids Triathlon.
“We all have a spark of competitiveness,” said Najera, “and the Red, White & Rockin Kids Tri is a great way to let it show.”
As Vance Caverly, now seven and a seasoned tri pro, says, “When you are a kid you have to start out somewhere with sports. And I want to get better. My favorite part is when everyone cheers for you and you get your medal. But mostly when you’ve finished what you started.”
For more information on the race, visit mansfieldtexas.gov/kidstri. Registration ends July 1, but rates do increase as the date approaches, click here to sign up today.