Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Young Athletes Crowd UNF at Triathlon; Groups from Schools and Individuals Took Part in the Large Event

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Young Athletes Crowd UNF at Triathlon; Groups from Schools and Individuals Took Part in the Large Event

Article excerpt

Byline: Roger Bull

It seemed pretty big the first year it started. Two years ago, the inaugural First Coast Kids Triathlon had to cut registration off at 500. It was already the third largest youth triathlon in the country.

Last year, it grew to 1,000 and No. 1 in size.

Sunday, about 1,400 athletes, ages 5 to 15, took part at the University of North Florida. Wave after wave of athletes in various sizes and shapes worked their way each leg: the swim, the bike and the run.

The sea of bicycles gave the biggest sense of the range of young athletes from sleek racing bikes worth hundreds and even thousands of dollars down to cute little pink bikes with training wheels and a Barbie doll clipped to the handlebars.

Announcements came regularly from the loudspeakers, attempting to reunite parents and kids who had gotten separated in the sea of people and tents that filled the infield of Hodges Stadium.

And 200 volunteers did everything from hand out medals to help the kids tie their shoes after they ran from the pool to their bikes.

There were some who drew special attention and more applause than most. Ellie Kavalieros, an 11-year-old with an inoperable brain tumor, had dozens of people calling her name all along the way. She walked with a little bit of help, but just a few months ago she wasn't walking at all.

Seven-year-old Tim Houston was there again. At the first triathlon in 2009, Tim drew plenty of cheers along with a few tears as he finished more than an hour after he started with his prosthetic leg. This year, Tim was the first one out of the pool, flew to the bikes on his crutches, and later, was still sprinting as he crossed the finish line on a leg specially made for running.

Tim and his older brother Brett are seasoned triathletes these days. This is the fifth one they've taken part in this year.

Kids triathlons are booming. AAA Tri Camp in Clermont brought a dozen young athletes up for the race. John Hovious, AAA head coach, said they travel to more than 20 triathlons a year, even took a team out to the nationals in San Diego last year. Last year, the camp produced seven state champs at different age groups. …

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