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Annual Kids Triathlon set for Saturday at Marina
by Sami Edge - Special to the Tribune
Jul 24, 2013 | 1118 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune file photo - Jack Egan, 6, runs the final leg of the annual Scheels Kids’ Triathlon last summer at the Sparks Marina.
Tribune file photo - Jack Egan, 6, runs the final leg of the annual Scheels Kids’ Triathlon last summer at the Sparks Marina.
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Lukin Leniz’ favorite part of last year’s Scheels Kids Triathalon was the wildlife he saw as he biked around the Sparks Marina. At 8 years old, Lukin was one of over 160 participants below the age of 12 who competed in the 25-yard swim, 1.8 mile bike ride and .2 mile dash that comprise the region’s youngest cross training event.

This weekend, he’s gearing up to do it again.

“When you go around the marina you get to see a lot of cool stuff,” Lukin said. “Last year there was a swim and run to your bikes and then pedal and my family had to help me get going … this year I think I’ll be more prepared.”

Saturday morning will mark the decennial celebration of the annual triathlon hosted by the City of Sparks and co-sponsored by Scheels and the TYR swimming brand. According to City of Sparks Recreation Specialist Tanja Ramociotti, the continuing importance and success of the event lies in its ability to inspire youngsters like Lukin to get active in a new way, and to have fun doing it.

“This is a great family event that introduces a fun, different kind of sport that kids can get involved with,” Ramociotti said. “The kids really have a blast.”

This year’s race begins at 8 a.m. at Peninsula Park on the West shore of the Sparks Marina. Parents of interested participants are encouraged to complete the registration process at Scheels or the Sparks Parks and Recreation office through 5:30 p.m. today for an $18 pre-registration fee, or for $20 at Peninsula Park, starting at 7 am on race day. The registration fee includes a T-shirt, participatory medal and drawstring bag and swimming cap provided by TYR.

Moments after crossing last year’s finish line, Sarah Leniz says, then 8-year-old Lukin and his 6-year-old sister Kaia were already talking about how to condition and stay active in anticipation for this year’s event. Since, they’ve been practicing their running and bike riding skills in an effort to make Saturday’s experience the best it can be.

“Last year’s triathlon was fantastic. Great experience. It was kind of neat because it awakened a sense of competition in them that they didn’t really have before,” Sarah said. “[Staying active] has become a habit for the family.”

In an increasingly technological world, where the temptation for inactivity seems to mount with every new smartphone game release, Sarah is thankful for activity-promoting events like the triathlon, and delighted with the enthusiasm it inspires in her children, not only to participate once a year, but also to stay active during the months in between.

“Between the Xbox and the Wii it’s hard to keep kids active outdoors, not to mention that the world just isn’t as safe as it used to be,” Sarah said. “It’s a high priority for us to keep these kids motivated and active.”

As a general trend, Ramociotti says, the race has seen an increase in attendance since its commencement in 2003. There’s certainly hope that this year’s crowd will usurp the 160 kids who participated last year, but with last-minute registration available before the event, it’s nearly impossible to predict the yearly turnout until 8 a.m. when the athletes align to start the race. This year, Ramociotti anticipates that attendance might fluctuate in response to an abnormally early Washoe County School District schedule, which could translate to earlier family vacation times and fewer available participants, as well as an unusually warm weather pattern.

To beat the heat – Saturday’s high is expected to be about 96 degrees according to The Weather Channel – the triathlon is being held in the early hours of the morning and is only expected to last about an hour, or until about 9 a.m. What’s more, Scheels events coordinator Jeri Nelson says that Banana Boat sunscreen company will be on site offering free samples to keep spectators and participants safe in the sun.

When deciding whether or not to participate in this year’s race, the Leniz family certainly took the unusually hot summer into account. In the end, their decision to register came down to the lower risk of early morning heat and the determined enthusiasm of the returning triathletes.

“We did discuss that the heat was a factor. We told the kids that the night before they needed to drink plenty of water and get plenty of rest to make sure they were properly hydrated,” Sarah said. “They absolutely wanted to participate.”

For Nelson, who has represented Scheels at the event for the past three years, seeing kids partake in fun, friendly competition with the full support of their cheering families is what Saturday is all about.

“It’s a very unique event,” Nelson said. “I’m hoping to see a lot of smiling faces and people having a good time this year … it’s a total blast.”

It’s the kind of healthy, community-driven event that Scheels is proud to sponsor, she says.

“We sponsor the event because it gives a healthy outlet for children in our community,” Nelson said. “It is truly amazing when you see these little kids complete a triathlon. It’s like, ‘why didn’t I get up and run this morning?’”
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