Young athletes get ready, get set ...

By Geoff Lee

June 22, 2017 12:00 AM

TRI-UMPHANT Swim, bike, run. See youngsters like this 2016 triathlete compete in the 2017 ATB Financial Lloydminster Triathlon at Bud Miller All Seasons Park Friday, starting at noon. A total of 670 students are registered. GEOFF LEE LLS PHOTO

The ATB Financial Lloydminster triathlon is morphing into a monster celebration of participation and competition.
Registration for Friday’s fourth annual swim, bike and run Kids of Steel event has jumped to 670 students from 525 a year ago, for a 27.1 per cent increase.
“We’re good to go; we’re topped out,” said race coordinator Anthony Bender, who is also the vice principal at St. Joseph Elementary School.
A previous suggestion to cap entries at 575 didn’t gain any traction.
“We didn’t want to turn any kids away because in the end, it’s all about activity,” said Bender.
To accommodate the larger turnout, the race start has been moved up an hour to noon and extended until 4:30 p.m. with safety being top of mind.
“We have to make sure we don’t have too many kids out on the course so it’s safe, so we just spread the time slot out a bit so we don’t have to turn anyone away,” said Bender.
Participation will come from elementary students from the Lloydminster public and catholic school divisions, led by 154 triathletes from St. Thomas Elementary, followed by 114 from College Park, with 94 from St. Joseph.
Individual age group competitors will race against the clock in distances from 50 to 300m in the swim, 1 to 10km on the bike, and 500m to 3km in the run.
Junior, intermediate and senior teams will complete legs ranging from swimming 100 to 300m, biking 1 to 10km and running 1 to 3km for medals.
A core of about 80 volunteers will help keep kids on course and sail through the transitions and finishing chute at Bud Miller All Seasons Park.
Shauna Makepeace, assistant branch manager at ATB Financial, handed out finisher medals at last year’s event, and is amazed how it’s grown.
“When I think of our numbers from the previous year, it’s just something that’s continuing to grow,” Makepeace told the Source earlier this year.
“It’s exciting to be a part of that; it’s a great afternoon; it’s very fulfilling, and it’s great to see so many kids come together.”
The event is an opportunity for everyone to get involved with team registration fees just $20, and $15 for individuals.
The low cost is a far cry from the $70 plus fees when the inaugural event was a sanctioned Kids of Steel Triathlon by Alberta Triathlon Association.
“We don’t ever run this thing to make money; we just run it so we don’t run in the hole,” said Bender, who noted the budget is balanced.
“We ended up buying 10 more bike racks this year because of the expansion, but everything worked out.
“The payback is enjoyment and activity for kids.”
Bender noted the event couldn’t take place without the support of the two school divisions, corporate sponsors and donations,  and the City of Lloydminster that provides the venue and helps with race results.
“The city also repaired some of the paths which is awesome, just to ensure the safety of the kids,” said Bender.
Bender says a bi-product of the event that he witnesses is an annual uptick in families at Bud Miller helping their own kids during the final week of training.
“That’s awesome,” he said.
An orientation was held Wednesday night for all competitors at Bud Miller.
Bender cites word-of-mouth for the rapid growth of the event and the success that kids experience from taking part and sharing that with others.
“So it automatically grows on it’s own —it’s kind of morphing into what it is right now,” said Bender.
“I think parents in the community see the end product, and that’s kids enjoying themselves and being active.”
He said kids usually start by getting involved in a team first, and then they do it on their own.
“That’s the point—we also try to create independence for them.”

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