As Michelle Schaefer led kids to the start line of the Boys & Girls Club Youth Triathlon inside the Seymour Aquatic Center on Saturday, she pumped up her fists and said “Woo!”
Family members and friends cheered and clapped, and one person even used a noisemaker.
Schaefer, co-chairwoman of the event with Kendra Zumhingst, then gave each boy and girl last-minute instructions before they jumped into the pool one at a time.
As they exited the pool, parents were heard saying things like “Go get ’em, tiger,” “There you go, buddy” and “Good job” and seen giving high-fives or thumbs-up.
Story continues below gallery
The kids dashed down the stairs and headed outside to their bicycle, where the encouragement continued. “Come on, let’s hustle” and “Go, buddy, go,” parents yelled out.
Upon arriving back to Seymour High School’s parking lot, helmets came off for the finishing run. One parent had a sign reading “Run with purpose in every step” and shook a cowbell.
The kids’ training and effort then paid off at the finish line, where everyone gathered to cheer them on and congratulate them. Seymour Mayor Craig Luedeman was there to give them high-fives and medals.
Once all 44 kids were done, trophies were handed out to the top three finishers in the 6- to 10-year-old and 11- to 14-year-old age groups. They stood on a podium for their proud parents to take pictures.
“It helps me to try to do better since they are watching me,” Cole Schaefer, 11, of Seymour said of everyone’s encouragement throughout the race.
Of crossing the finish line, he said, “It’s pretty relaxing, actually, because you’re done after all of the hard work. It basically means that I can finish a triathlon without collapsing. That’s the biggest part.”
Jaycob Steinkamp, 9, of Brownstown said the people cheering makes him go harder and finish strong, while his 12-year-old brother, Jayden Steinkamp, said finishing made him feel good.
“I get to go home and say I wasn’t a quitter,” Jayden said.
Simon Akers, 13, of Seymour also was happy to say he didn’t give up and he finished.
“It’s exciting,” he said of finishing the youth triathlon for the second time. “And now, you get to rest.”
The accomplishment also was a good feeling for Jadrix Zumhingst, 9, of Seymour. He liked the atmosphere at the finish line.
“It’s like you’re about to go in Candyland,” he said, referring to the popular children’s board game.
For 6- to 10-year-olds, the triathlon consisted of a 100-yard swim, 2-mile bike ride and half-mile run. For 11- to 14-year-olds, it was a 200-yard swim, 4-mile bike ride and 1-mile run. This was the third year for the event, which is sanctioned by USA Triathlon and benefits the Boys & Girls Club of Seymour.
Tristan Dowell, 9, of Seymour, won the 6 to 10 age group, finishing in 18 minutes and 22 seconds.
He said he did some training for the event, and his favorite part was biking.
“I’m kind of excited,” he said of placing first. “It feels kind of good.”
Zumhingst was second in that age group with a time of 19:30. This was his second time competing in the triathlon, and he said he did some swimming, biking and running ahead of time.
“It helps me doing the things for triathlons so I can do better,” he said, noting that biking is his favorite part because he got a new bike and could go fast.
Jaycob Steinkamp finished third in 19:43. It was his second time doing the triathlon, and he also did some training.
“I pretty much ran a lot,” he said. “Doing it almost every day helped.”
Swimming was Jaycob’s favorite part because he likes being in the warm water.
“I get in exercise every year,” he said of what he likes about the triathlon.
Akers was the winner among 11- to 14-year-olds, crossing the line in 29:41. That made him happy after placing second last year.
The difference between this year and last year?
“I don’t know. I prepared a little more, I guess,” he said. “I swam and biked more.”
Simon said he did some training at home, and he even continued with it during a recent family vacation to Florida.
“I like running because I’m better at it, and I run cross-country,” he said. “But swimming, I think, is the easiest of all three.”
Jayden Steinkamp took second in 30:11. From competing in past years, he knew he needed to do some training.
“We just do the same thing we do here,” he said. “We get in our pool and run on our driveway. It builds up your strength.”
Jayden said he likes biking the most. As he was going through the race, he said he was focused on finishing.
“I think it’s good. It’s just something for people to get out and do,” he said of the triathlon.
Schaefer received the third-place trophy with a finish in 32:22. He has done this triathlon every year along with a couple in Columbus.
“This year, I didn’t do as much (training) as I wanted to, but I biked every day and swam on Tuesday and Thursday here,” he said of practice sessions offered last week at the high school.
Cole said biking is his favorite aspect of a triathlon.
“It helps me get exercise for basketball, golf and cross-country,” he said.
Cole encourages other kids to participate in triathlons.
“It helps them get fit and not just be sitting on the couch,” he said. “They can actually go do something.”
Steve Stanfield, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Seymour, said he appreciated the work of Kendra Zumhingst and Michelle Schaefer and all of the volunteers who helped with the event.
Stanfield said it’s nice to offer a nontraditional sport for boys and girls, and it may encourage kids to join the Boys & Girls Club if they aren’t already members. He noted that this year’s winners are regular club attendees.
“It makes you very proud when you see that happen,” he said.
Third annual Boys & Girls Club of Seymour Youth Triathlon
6-10 age group
(100-yard swim, 2-mile bike ride and half-mile run)
Tristan Dowell, first, 18:22; Jadrix Zumhingst, second, 19:30; Jaycob Steinkamp, third, 19:43
11-14 age group
(200-yard swim, 4-mile bike ride and 1-mile run)
Simon Akers, first, 29:41; Jayden Steinkamp, second, 30:11; Cole Schaefer, third, 32:22