Triathlon series brings swim, bike, run to kids

A competitor crosses the finish line after swimming, biking and running.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – A triathlon series in Indianapolis is bringing the most beloved summertime activities to kids in a competitive way.

The Kids Tri for Kids series consists of five timed triathlons — races where participants swim, then bike and run — and it’s only open to kids ages 7 to 15.

“I’m ready because I’m strong, fit and I like racing a lot,” says 8-year-old Jay Stewart, a first-time triathlete from Bloomington.

Stewart has a background in swimming and just learned about the Kids Tri event one week before the race.

All Kids Tri for Kids races divide children into two age groups – ages 7 to 10 and ages 11 to 15. The younger group has a 100-yard swim, a 2-mile bike and a 1/2-mile run. The older age group has a 200-yard swim, a 4-mile bike, then a 1-mile run.

Kids start the first event in waves, swimming close to one another.
Kids start the first event in waves, swimming close to one another.

A duathlon is also offered to kids, with the younger group competing in a 1/2-mile run, a 2-mile bike, then another 1/2-mile run. The older age group has a 1/2-mile run, a 4-mile bike, then a 1-mile run.

The creator of Kids Tri for Kids, Meg Gates Osborne, is a former IU swimmer and current swim coach. Osborne’s daughter was a 14-time All American swimmer who decided to quit swimming and was at a loss for what activity to pick up. Osborne suggested triathlon.

“I realized there’s a lot of one-dimensional kids out there and I thought it would be really important for kids to learn different disciplines so as adults they have lifetime skills that they can stay in shape,” says Osborne.

Osborne started Kids Tri for Kids in 2008 with one triathlon, raising $4,000 for local children’s organizations. Since then, the series has grown to five races that span from May to September.

Competitors have their race numbers written on their arms before the race, so that it's visible during the swim portion.
Competitors have their race numbers written on their arms before the race, so that it’s visible during the swim portion.

Kids Tri for Kids has also partnered with Indy Parks summer camps to teach the 4,500 camp kids how to compete in a triathlon. The Garfield Park race in July is open to everyone, but is specifically for kids in Indy Parks summer camps.

Each race has a $30 entry fee, which covers the cost of the goodie bag, swim cap, water bottle, t-shirt and ribbon each participant receives. The 1st through 3rd place winners in each age group receive a medal.

The money from entry fees also contributes to local children’s non-profit organizations like Best Buddies of Indiana.

“We’re going to raise between $50,000 and $60,000 [this year] with corporate support and race fees and we’ll have about 1,500 participants throughout the city,” says Osborne.

One of the main corporate sponsors is American Dairy, which provides chocolate milk at all the races. Osborne points out sponsorship participation is a large contributor to the annual success of the series.

A competitor brings back her bike to the transition area where she'll leave it to begin the final run portion of the race.
A competitor brings back her bike to the transition area where she’ll leave it to begin the final run portion of the race.

Madison Arnold, 9, of Indianapolis competed in five triathlons last year and says she has a goal of completing between 30 and 40 triathlons in her lifetime.

“When [my mom] told me about it, I knew was good at running and biking, and I knew if I practiced swimming I would be good at it,” says Arnold. “I really wanted to take my time, so I tried it for the first time and I wasn’t the best the first time but once I started doing it they were really fun so I just kept going with it.”

Participation awards are given to children who participate in all five series events. After the first race, they receive a t-shirt. Children are given a special water bottle for their second race and a sling-bag for their third race. Kids get a race belt for their 4th race and a trophy on their fifth race. In 2014, over 100 kids did all five races.

“It’s not about the winning, it’s about the engagement. It’s about the participation,” says Osborne.

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