The young athletes competed in three age divisions, over distances that ranged from 50 yard swim, two-mile bike, 500 yard run for the Juniors; up to a 300 yard swim, eight-mile bike, two-mile run for the seniors.
“The majority of IronKids athletes are first-timers,” said Christine Hanlon, Athlete Services and Marketing Coordinator for IronKids at World Triathlon Corporation.
Although the IronKids race series has been around since 1985, the World Triathlon Corporation assumed ownership of the series from former owner Sara Lee Corp., and now offers 24 IronKids races nationwide.
Finding smooth water. Photo by Clint Thayer - Focal Flame Photography
“Many of the athletes participating in IronKids today have parents who are participating in the IronMan tomorrow,” Hanlon said.
Parents and fans lined the chutes and transition areas. Many carried homemade signs to encourage their athletes.
Smiles were abundant.
Justin Lorenz makes an easy transition. Photo by Clint Thayer - Focal Flame Photography
Like those ready to race Sunday, many of the junior competitors traveled to Madison from Green Bay, Milwaukee, the Twin Cities, areas in Illinois, and beyond.
Dan Marrello of Riverside, Ill., cheered on his daughter Chloe Marrello, 12, as she finished her race.
“We had [a triathlon] in Riverside a couple of weeks ago, and her bike tires weren’t exactly inflated quite right. As soon as it was over we went back home and she begged me, ‘Dad, look up another race, try to find me another one.’ So this is number two for her.”
One serious IronKids competitor was Alexandra Lorenz, age 13, of Dundee, Ill.
Lorenz was the first-place female finisher for the Senior Division and was third overall for that age division."
“My dad’s doing the IronMan tomorrow,” she said. "I just want to wish him good luck, and I’ll be out there to cheer him on all day.”
Lorenz attends a small school, but a triathlon club in her town helps youths train for events like the IronKids. One of her teammaters, Maxx Hall, was the first finisher in the boys Senior division.
The growing numbers of youth tackling the triathlon is no surprise to Cindi Bannink, Owner of Madison Multisport. She started a Juniors triathlon team for 2011 – the first in the Madison area.
As a group of football players practiced on a field across from the start/finish area, the juxtaposition of classical team sports and increasingly popular endurance sports was notable
“This is just fun, the kids getting out here and being active and doing something different and new,” Bannink said. "But triathlon growing in the U.S., it’s the fastest-growing sport, I believe…this is where it starts."
Running strong at the finish. Photo by Clint Thayer - Focal Flame Photography
Clint Thayer and Robyn Perrin, the Focal Flame Photography team have been regular contributors to Off the Couch. Check out more of their work here.