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The first youth triathlon sponsored by McGaw YMCA had an “overwhelming turnout” said Craig Strong, race director and competitive aquatics manager at the McGaw Y. Two-hundred-and-five boys and girls, aged 7 – 14, competed in the swim/bike/run triathlon held at Northwestern University on Sunday morning, July 26.

Mr. Strong said the McGaw Y reached out to the community to inspire kids to participate in the event. He said they knew they would attract kids who regularly competed in athletics, but they wanted to attract other kids as well to have a diverse event.

A primary objective of the event was to motivate and inspire kids to be active and pursue a healthy lifestyle, he said.

Participation was almost equal by gender, with girls accounting for about 47 percent of the participants.

Seven- to ten-year-olds swam 100 meters, rode a bike four kilometers and then ran one kilometer to complete the triathlon. The distances were twice as long for kids ages 11-14 years.

The swim portion of the race took place at NU’s Norris Aquatic Center, which was packed with about 700 people, including participants, parents and friends, at the start of the event, said Mr. Strong. The bike race was on a closed loop course on Sheridan Road, which was closed to traffic for a few hours. The final leg of the event, a 1 or 2K run, was on NU’s lakefront landfill.

As kids moved from one event to the next, parents followed them. In the final run on NU’s landfill, many parents were running with their kids, said Mr. Strong.

Many parents raved about the event. One parent said, “A standing ovation to all of you [Mr. Strong and staff at the McGaw Y]. What an amazing experience for the youth of Evanston. … We were blown away by the dedication, organization, and enthusiasm displayed by everyone wearing a yellow volunteer shirt.”

Another parent said, “Congratulations on an event that I think will and should be an annual affair. Kudos to you and your team for putting everything together and helping to inspire young kids to push themselves physically and mentally and to help them feel a true sense of accomplishment through this event.”

Another said, “Northwestern is a wonderful venue for this event. Wow. What a great start in the water. Staggering the start times was brilliant… and it also helped underline that they weren’t racing everyone else, it is their race.”

Diego Arana, Lewis Simon and Ema Takahashi placed first, second and third respectively in the 7 – 10 age group. Evan Swenson, Riley Campbell and Lauryn Schmelzer placed first, second and third in the 11-14 age group.

Mr. Strong said Northwestern was a principal sponsor which not only provided its pool and grounds but additional assistance as well. “I couldn’t say enough about them,” he said.

While a firm decision has not been made to have a triathlon next year, Mr. Strong said, “I’m hoping we have one next year.”

Larry Gavin

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...