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Young athletes get a chance to run, bike, swim and shine

NORTH LIBERTY– To have nearly 100 athletes participate in a local triathlon event is successful by any measure; to note that all of them are between the ages and 6 and 14 is more remarkable.
North Liberty’s second annual Just Tri Youth Triathlon was held Sunday, Aug. 4, with three separate age brackets in varied biking, swimming and running distances.
Even co-director Katie Gerot– also the aquatics supervisor for the North Liberty Recreation Department– said 98 kids signed up for this year’s event.
“It was nice to have such great support from the community,” said Gerot.
Gerot’s co-director Denise Barnhouse, proprietor of Tri-Fit Agape and Cross Fit Philia in North Liberty, said the goal of the triathlon was simply to encourage kids to give it a shot.
“The mission was not to be competitive,” said Barnhouse. “That competitiveness takes some people out of sports. We just want every kid to come out and know they can complete the event and not worry about times or places or medals.”
When participants enjoy that kind of accomplishment, she said, it gives them courage to try other things.
“Even as adults, I think this is quite the task,” said Barnhouse. “That’s why it’s called Just Tri: it’s meant to build confidence and decrease the stress (of competition). It starts here.”
Parent Cass Garrett, whose 8-year-old son Damien completed his first triathlon that morning, agreed.
“Most kids’ sports are so competitive anymore,” said Garrett. “It’s nice they can come out and have fun at an individual sport, and get a T-shirt and a medal.”
Eight-and-a-half year old Jackson Schloss of North Liberty said he signed up for the triathlon because some of his friends were doing it.
“I was nervous at first because I knew a lot of people were going to be there, watching,” said Jackson.
However, some pre-training at Barnhouse’s facility helped alleviate his nervousness, he said.
“She told us it’s not about winning, it’s about having fun,” Jackson said. His favorite part of the race was biking, and the swimming portion– 25 meters for the 8-year-old age bracket– was his biggest challenge.
“I just thought, ‘keep going,’” Jackson said.
Jackson’s mother, Suzanne Schloss, said her son has looked forward to participating since watching last year’s event.
“I am really proud of him, and all of the kids,” said Suzanne. “They all kept going. I saw a smile on his face, and that’s what matters.”
Barnhouse saw the same positive reactions from kids who crossed the finish line throughout the morning.
“The kids have done a fabulous job of conquering the challenges and not be scared of them,” said Barnhouse. “I see a lot of big smiles today. That makes it all worth it.”