Olivia Curran sucked in deep breaths and pushed a stray tendril of her sweat-drenched hair away from her face after crossing the finish line of the 2012 Runner’s Edge-TOBAY Junior Triathlon in Oyster Bay Saturday morning. She smiled as she was congratulated on her amazing time.
The 11-year-old completed the 200-yard swim, 2.5-mile bike ride and 1-mile run in just 13:17, making her not only the winner for her age group, but also of the entire event, coming in more than a minute faster than the boys in the older group.
“It felt really good,” said Curran, of White Plains, as she slowly sipped a cup of water.
Following in the footsteps of her father, who has competed in triathlons and even an Ironman competition, she has already competed in several races, runs track and is on a swim team.
“I just love running and swimming, biking is my weak spot. But for once no one passed me on the bike today,” she said beaming. “Not once.”
The 2012 Runner’s Edge-TOBAY Junior Triathlon is a chance for younger kids who are not eligible for the adult TOBAY triathlon held Sunday morning to join in some friendly competition.
Mike Polansky, president of the Greater Long Island Runners Club, said the junior triathlon was started nine years ago in an effort to promote the sport among kids. While they do keep time, he said they try not to make a big deal out of the results.
“We want to make it noncompetitive, every kid is special,” he said. “Finishing it is its own reward.”
To that end, all kids receive a medal at the finish line and there is no official award ceremony at the end of the event.
To accommodate the young kids in the junior event, the race was broken up into three age groups, each competing and starting at staggered intervals. Volunteers were also available to help and direct the children every step of the way and their encouraging cheers could be heard throughout the entire race.
For the 7- to 9-year-old age group, Katrina Schleck, 9, of West Sayville, came in first with a time of 17:25; Stephen DeStefani, 9, of Syosset, was the leader for the males at 16:32. For ages 10-11, Curran came in first for the females with her time of 13:17; Connor Towers, 11, of Huntington, won for the males with a time of 14:20. For ages 12-13, Samantha DeStefani, 12, from Syosset led the females with a time of 15:21; James Dysart, 13, of Hicksville, took first for the males with a time of 14:22.
While many of the kids come from racing families like Curran, others were just out to have a good time.
Annette Scarpa, of Bethpage, said she doesn’t race at all but her two kids have taken to the sport since they are so active.
“I like the fact that there are three different activities,” said her 10-year-old son, Joseph.
Nolan Mingst, 13, of Hicksville who finished second in the 12-13 age category, said he decided to give triathlons a try after seeing a notice about one.
“I figured maybe I could try it and didn’t know how much fun it could be,” he said, adding this was his second race in two weeks. “Now I want to do more.”
And that, Polansky said, is the ultimate goal.
“We are trying to give the kids a taste of [the sport] and make sure everyone has fun.”