Having completed the 19th Kids Triathlon held July 21 at the South Park Wave Pool complex more than 100 competitors were unofficially enrolled in the Four-H Club. Despite hazy, hot and humid conditions, the athletes were happy after finishing the event that featured swimming, cycling and running.

“It was fun,” said Mia Monaco, a 9-year-old Mt. Lebanon resident, who won her age group with a time of 10:38.

On a day when temperatures soared to the mid-90s with a heat index hovering at more than 100 degrees, Abby Poe added the conditions in which she raced were not that bad considering the event took place at 8 a.m.

Poe, an 11-year-old Bridgeville resident, said she “tried to stay calm” and not let the heat bother her.

“Besides we weren’t out there that long,” added Poe, who covered her fifth South Park Triathlon in 15:54, 5:02 of which was consumed while completing a one-mile run.

Cooper Bedilion felt the athletes were out on the course long enough. The 11-year-old McMurray native finished second to Noah Clonan of Finleyville in his age division. He clocked in at 20 minutes, 50 seconds while Clonan’s time was 30 seconds faster.

“Terrible heat,” he said in between gasps of air.

“Very hard. The heat and the hill,” he added of half-mile ascent that transformed into a flat to the finish line.

Beating the heat

Because race officials took precautions, there were no heat-related incidents. Only two spills during the bike event marred the otherwise successful festivities, which raised funds for Habitat For Humanity.

Prior to the event, Allegheny County Department of Health was contacted for advice and local EMS were on site to handle any emergencies.

“This was one of the hotter years that we have had in a while, but we were ready,” said Kristi Webb, who has directed the race for more than a decade.

“We had extra ice and plenty of water for everybody, including the parents and grandparents who came to watch their athletes.”

A sprinkler was also set up for contestants to cool themselves and race officials made sure the heats were run efficiently as the last one went off at 9:06 a.m. No competitor was on the course after 9:40.

“I thought they did a great job,” said Lori Poe.

As Abby’s mother, Poe said she was not concerned because the hotter temperatures were not predicted until well after the event.

She said, however, it is important to be concerned about exercising in the heat.

Mrs. Poe said volunteers did a great job of “encouraging” the athletes and “watching out” for them. The major concern was the running portion of the race, half mile for ages 7-9 and one mile for ages 10-12.

“When you get out of the pool, you are cool and during the bike you may have a breeze, but when you hit the run, you are really warmed up,” she said.

“But,” Mrs. Poe added, “I think they did a wonderful job. It’s a great event and good to be part of this. It’s all positive for the kids and the community.”

After the event, Webb expounded upon the positives. She was pleased with how well the race was run and the number of entrants considering the weather concerns. Fifty-eight girls and 42 boys competed.

“I’m not sure what that says, but it is really exciting to see more girls getting involved in the sport,” Webb said.

“We had great involvement from the community with our volunteers and Pro Bikes did 50 checks during our pre-race meeting even before race day,” Webb added. “Plus, we only had two spills, but both those competitors got up and finished. That’s the spirit of this competition and the racers.”

Rookie raves

First-time triathletes displayed the most spirit as they enthusiastically entered into the competition with high expectations.

Bryce Terenda’s goal was “to win a trophy” and the 7-year-old Canonsburg resident achieved that objective by swimming 50-meters, cycling a mile and running a half-mile in 13:08 for the best time in his age group.

“The biking was the easiest,” said Terenda.

“He’s a natural on a bike,” added Terenda’s mother, Jennifer.

Although he swims at the pool at Town Park and practiced at the South Park Wave Pool, Terenda found the swim the “hardest” simply because it is difficult and he doesn’t practice that sport the most. Terenda, who has participated in the Kids Marathon the past two years, admitted the leg race was almost as easy as the biking. “I am a runner,” he said proudly.

Bethel Park residents Max Dluhos and Parker Davenport are speedsters, too. Dluhos runs on a team at Memorial Elementary School while Davenport plays multiple sports, including soccer, hockey and track.

“I wanted to see if I could get a trophy and a medal,” said Davenport.

The St. Thomas More student already owns eight awards, including one for helping his SHAHA hockey team win first place in its league. While he did earn a participation medal, Davenport placed sixth in the 8-year-old age group.

“The race went pretty well and I was quick enough to get a good place,” said Davenport. “The swimming was the hardest. I’m pretty new to swimming. I’m not afraid of the deep, but I usually swim in the shallow water.”

Dluhos wasn’t keen on the water, either. He said he was “relieved” when that portion of the race was over.

“Swimming was the hardest because I had to keep stopping. I was a little worried so I floated on my back,” Dluhos said. “I liked the run because I am a good runner.”

Dluhos also enjoyed the cycling because he had just gotten a new ride. The Kids Triathlon was the debut for his “big kid bike” added his mother, Meg. She accompanied her son while her husband, Josh, stayed home with their daughters, Elle, 6, and Evie, 2.

In general, Dluhos said the event was “even better” than he expected.

“It was fun,” Dluhos said. “I really liked it.”

Because she works for the Susan G. Komen foundation, Meg Dluhos said she likes the event and its ultimate purpose.

To date, the Kids Triathlon series has raised nearly $1 million to provide decent, affordable homeownership and home repairs to local, limited-income families.

“Because I work for a nonprofit, I’m all in,” she said. “When you get kids together and they are having fun at an event that is for a good cause and benefits the community, that’s a win-win. We’re all about that.”

Lindsey and Jake Seal of Upper St. Clair agreed. They attended the Kids Triathlon because their daughter, Lily, 8, was participating with her friends, Leighton Smith and Emma Wakefield, both 9.

“This is an amazing event,” said Lindsey Seal, who along with her husband, has been involved with Habitat for Humanity for years. “For kids, it’s a positive way to get them moving while having fun and it teaches them about being able to help others. Anytime you can help people in the community that is a good thing.”

Lily Seal agreed.

“I really had fun and I like volunteering, especially because it gives us an opportunity to help people in the community,” she said.

Volunteer help

Dr. Gregory Christiansen and Josh Tanner not only help with the Kids Triathlon, they provide considerable help in their communities.

Christiansen directs Advanced Orthopaedic and Rehabilitation located on Fort Couch Road and operates out of St. Clair Hospital. This was his fourth year working as a volunteer at the Kids Triathlon.

An advocate for fitness, as he has participated in more than 30 triathlons, including five Ironman events, Christiansen said he was pleased to be a part of an event that promotes healthy lifestyles because too often today’s children are too sedentary. He encourages parents to take the lead because then their children will follow.

“I really enjoy watching these kids compete out there. They are fit and they are having fun,” he said.

Christiansen added he has also enjoyed watching the repeat triathletes.

“It’s neat to see the ones that keep coming back and how they have aged up,” he said. “They really enjoy what they like to do.”

Because of the improvement and numbers of trails, Dr. Christiansen said it is easier to find safe outlets for physical activities such as biking and running.

Often Christiansen trains at Mingo Creek Park, doing as many as 800 laps on the bike trails in that Washington County facility. He also frequents the Montour and Panhandle Trails. He noted the latter is asphalt paved for 17 miles with 10 crossings, mainly driveways.

“I love the trails,” he said. “There are so many more of them and they are much safer than riding on the roads.

“There is so much to do here. Living in the South Hills,” added the Upper St. Clair resident, “there are great places to run and bike.”

There are also great bike mechanics like Tanner. The Castle Shannon resident has worked at Pro Bikes near South Hills Village for three years. In addition to checking the brakes and gear shifters on the triathletes bikes, he noted many of them needed “air in the tires.”

“They all are low,” he said with a laugh. “When your tires are low on air, that’s not good. It makes it feel like you are riding through peanut butter.”

Family connect

Peanut butter may be one of the 16 ice cream flavors offered at Tandem Connection where DJ Poe works at his family business serving up scoops and washing bicycles, but cookie dough is his favorite and it helps motivate him when he has to compete with his sisters, Abby and Hailey, in triathlons.

Ten years ago, the Poe family participated in their first Kids Triathlon.

Hailey, 17, a rising senior at South Fayette, is now an elite competitor. A standout in cross country and track for the Lions, she will compete Aug. 30 in the World Youth Triathlon Championships in Europe.

Abby, 11, finished second in last year’s nationals and hopes to earn a spot at Worlds when she competes in the USA Youth and Junior National Championships set for Aug. 3-4 in West Chester, Ohio.

While only 9, DJ won his age group at this year’s Kids Triathlon with a time of 11:12. It was also the fastest time recorded for the shorter distance among the younger competitors.

Abby and DJ, who both compete for the PEAQ Swim Club and run cross country in South Fayette School District, said they aspire to be like their big sister, Hailey. They credit their parents’ bike store in Cecil Township and location to the Montour Trail as secrets to their success in the saddle. But the biggest motivator may be their sibling rivalry.

“We train together,” Abby said. “So we push each other, race each other and try to beat each other. We like the competition because it challenges us.”

With one year left to compete in the South Park event, Abby embraces the challenge of one more race.

DJ looks forward to being in the same age group, which requires contestants to double their distances to 100-meter swim, two-mile bike and one-mile run.

“We like the event. It’s great. Well-organized,” Abby said. “We like the idea that it’s nice to help other people while also having fun.”

No matter the weather conditions, DJ concluded, “It’s definitely a lot of fun.

Almanac Sports Editor

An award-winning journalist, Eleanor Bailey has been employed by Observer Publishing Company since 1982. She is the sports editor at The Almanac and a contributor for the Observer-Reporter.

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