Perfect day for junior triathlon

One of the highlights of summer on Whidbey Island is the annual Junior Sprint Triathlon hosted by the North Whidbey Park and Recreation District.

Every year draws more participants and fans and Recreation Director Craig Carlson said Sunday’s third running of the event had the largest number of entries.

“Every year it grows and grows and this time around we have more than 40 entries,” he said.

Divided into two classifications by age, those 10 and under and others ages 11 and up, the groups are further broken down into individual age and gender classifications.

The event is a test of strength, stamina and athletic ability and no matter how old the contender, many parents watching the action marveled at the individual competitors’ tenacity.

All competitors began by swimming 10 widths of John Vanderzicht Memorial Pool, a distance of 147 yards, then rode a bicycle five laps around the field in back of the pool, a distance of an additional 2,000 yards. After that, it was a 600-yard run to the finish line.

The event was a true test of persevrance and character no matter what age, and there were some tired kids who crossed the orange-painted finish line near the entrance to the skate park after completing the 600-yard run.

In the 10-and-under division, “Girl Power” ruled the day.

Molly Vagt, three-time defending champion, was first out of the pool and first to don her helmet and leap aboard her bicycle.

The 10 year old, who is also a member of the North Whidbey Aquajets swim team, never trailed and finished in a time of 10:33.14.

“I guess I kinda did as well as I could, this is the third time I’ve won,” she said. “Swimming on the Aquajets team helps me a lot.”

First to finish in the boys half of the race was 9-year-old Cullen Wood, who said this is the second time he has competed in the triathlon.

The Broad View Elementary School fourth-grader said the end of the running was the hardest.

“I think I was fifth out of the pool and I made up some time on my bike,” he said. “Last year, was the first year I lived in Oak Harbor and I finished second in the triathlon.”

Wood is another member of the Aquajets and his mother, Rae, said it is a great swim program for the kids.

“We are very happy with the way the coach runs the program and I’m glad we have the swim team,” she said.

In the 11-and-older division, 12-year-old Emily Huffer had a big lead at the end of the swim and was the first off her bicycle at the start of the 600-yard run.

However Caley Powers, who participates in just about every summer sport including the Whidbey Island Running Club and the Northwest United 95 Red select soccer team, in addition to swimming for the Aquajets, managed to catch and pass Huffer during the running stage of the triathlon to win in a time of 8:24.12.

Huffer was non-pulsed by placing second at 8:45.77, and was the overall girls’ winner.

“I thought I did pretty good. I finished the race and beat the time I ran last year,” she said.

Powers, running in his second triathlon, said it felt weird running after riding his bicycle.

“I thought I was still on the bike, it felt like I was,” he said.

Powers’ younger brother, Dakota, was the boys’ 12-year old winner.

Powers was a tough interview and about all he said was, “I had fun.”

“He is the king of one-word answers,” his mother, River, remarked.

Alli Hoffmire, the girls’ 13 and 14-year-old winner, said her brother, Shane, ran along with her.

“I ran with her sort of as encouragement and support,” he said.

After the event, competitors and parents were treated to Gatorade and fudge bars courtesy of the parks and recreation district.

“I was real happy with the great turnout we had for the triathlon. It was an absolutely perfect day for it,” Carlson said.

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