After a 50-meter swim, 1-mile bike ride and half-mile run, Caleb Noonoo, 6, was the first triathlete across the finish line Saturday morning amid cheers from onlookers.
“I just finished a run,” he proudly said later. “It’s something fun that I like to do.”
More than 120 youngsters ages 5 through 14 competed in various age groups Saturday for the Big Time Youth Triathlon, presented by Academy Sports and Outdoors and organized by Rufus Racing, a local event management company.
“It’s a great way to get them (children) off the couch,” said race director Ruth Sawkins, who also asked parents to encourage their children to focus on having fun rather than winning.
Now in its fifth year, the event included for the second consecutive year a separate triathlon for children with autism. A portion of the proceeds from the weekend event go to the Ozark Center for Autism.
Caleb’s mother, Anna Noonoo, Pittsburg, Kan., said she enjoys watching her son and daughter, Emma, 9, race in the event.
“What kid doesn’t like to swim and bike and run?” she said. “It’s just a great thing to get kids out and doing different things. It’s a great way for them to stay in shape and have fun.”
Noonoo, also a triathlete and a member of Rufus Racing, said she enjoys triathlons because the focus is often on finishing rather than winning.
“It’s a great community,” she said. “You cheer for everybody, whether they’re the fastest or the last one, because we all know how great it is to get to the finish line.”
Gabbi Sands, 11, of Girard, Kan., said she felt relieved when she finally crossed the finish line after her 100-meter swim, 2-mile bike ride and 1-mile run.
“I like doing runs,” she said. “It’s one of my favorite sports to do with my mom and family.”
Sands competed with two of her cousins; her mother, Carla Sands, and two aunts planned to compete in the adults triathlon this morning, making the weekend a family affair.
“We’re all really busy,” Carla Sands said, “and this was an excuse for us to get together and spend some time together.”
Triathlons are also a big event for the Edwards family of Springfield. Zane, 10, and Dalton, 14, competed Saturday, and their father, Ken, who is originally from Carthage, races today.
“I started racing triathlons in 1987, and now it’s my boys who are doing it,” said Edwards, who jogged alongside his younger son during Saturday’s race. “A triathlon’s an individual sport against the clock, but for us it’s a family thing because we all get to race.”
The Summer Roundup Triathlon for adults and teens older than 15 begins at 7 a.m. today at Scroggs Lake in Jasper. Participants will complete in either a sprint (a 500-meter swim, 15.3-mile bike ride and 5-kilometer run) or an Olympic triathlon (a 1,500-meter swim, 24.8-mile bike ride and 10-kilometer run).