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Hall County students to compete in IronKids triathlon

POSTED: September 12, 2012 11:59 p.m.

Youngsters bike through Gainesville Middle School's parking area they train last Sunday afternoon for the IronKids competition.

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Children naturally love riding bikes, running and swimming.

Maybe that’s why they make such enthusiastic triathletes.

This Sunday a group of 25 Hall County students will compete in the IronKids National Race Series in Alpharetta.

The team, sponsored by UnitedHealthcare, is made up of 44 students ages 6 to 15 in the Hall and Paulding county school systems.

Jacob Weiers, Hall County Schools wellness coordinator, said the race is a great way to highlight the school district’s goals of encouraging wellness and physical activity.

The three event distances are shorter than an adult race but are still challenging for the children. The children are split into three age groups, and the distances of each event are based on age.

Many of the parents who have racing experience are leading the children through weekly practice sessions and sharing tips they’ve personally found useful.

The children have been practicing both on their own and in a group all summer to prepare for the race.

On Sundays, the team meets at Frances Meadows Aquatic Center to practice a mock triathlon, testing transitions from each activity.

Cherie McInturff, a parent coach and triathlete, said she tries to encourage the athletes through the difficult race.

“Yes, it’s three sports together but you never know what you can do until you try,” McInturff said.

She said some of the more difficult aspects of training involve learning how to transition from the pool to the bike to running.

“When you’re going from swimming to the bike you have to put on shoes and helmets and bike and it’s hard to do that really fast when you’re wet,” 13-year-old Riley Whitwell said.

McInturff said the goal of completing the race can sometimes seem abstract and hard to reach for an adult but the kids just know they’re having fun.

The children have been excited about working together as a team and helping each other reach their goals.

“It helps me when I have other people passing me because it encourages me to keep up with them and pass them again,” 9-year-old Rachel Whitwell said.

Weiers said that apart from the physical aspects of training, the race also teaches the children how to push through their problems.

“When you’re training and you’re competing at that kind of level and you’re being mentally pushed, you’re being prepared for life,” Weiers said.

Riley Whitwell, who has competed in two triathlons, is able to see this skill develop in her own life through her training efforts.

“When you’re training you push yourself harder and harder to meet your goals. Same as in school and you try harder and harder and you get good grades and when your report card comes out you get good grades and that is a reward,” Whitwell said. “It helps in life too because when you try harder you get good stuff back.”


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