USAT Youth National Championships
August 8, 2009 (Colorado Springs, CO) – Some kids go to the movies with their friends, others play backyard football or video games, but for most of the 480 participants at Saturday’s USA Triathlon National Junior Olympic Festival at Memorial Park, triathlon is their source of fun and camaraderie.
The V3 Youth Triathlon Team from Minneapolis was one of the numerous clubs that traveled to Colorado Springs for the event. Forty states were represented in races that included youth and junior elite national championships plus age group races for ages 7-15.
“We’ve really stressed that we’re a team and that we need to build each other up and support and encourage one another,” said Erika Binger, the coach and founder of the V3 Youth Triathlon Team. “It’s contagious – if you cheer someone on, then you feel better about yourself too and you have more energy to go farther because all of a sudden your mind frame has changed.”
The clubs come to this event to race against the best in the sport and also to have fun, as evidenced by the camaraderie of every team on the course plus before and after the races.
“It’s a great team-building experience coming in,” said Patrick Hertelendy of Golden Valley, Minn. “Riding the bus here, we mesh as a team and some of my best friends are on the team and it’s really fun to encourage them and get encouragement from them when you’re racing.”
Before the race, athletes mingled in tents or under the shade of the trees in Memorial Park on a cloudless day with temperatures in the upper 80s. During the race, the same athletes focused on competing at the best of their abilities while adding words of encouragement to their teammates as they passed each other along the courses, which varied depending on the age groups of the athletes.
And long after the final finishers crossed the line, the close-knit teammates of these multisport clubs will continue to support each other – this time at a celebration dinner or on the long – but euphoric – bus ride home.
Some of the athletes say they probably wouldn’t compete in such a grueling sport if not for the team aspect. Having the support of teammates, coaches and friends is what keeps them coming back after a discouraging workout or race.
Randy Scott, whose has two kids competing in triathlon, said that as a father, it’s encouraging to see his kids be part of a positive team atmosphere.
“This sport brings the kids closer together,” Scott said. “It’s encouraging, it’s character-building and they get a lot of fun out of it. They learn to compete and know that they don’t have to win – just to finish is a good deal also.”