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Enthusiasm Fuels Junior and Youth Athletes Prior to Race Day
Though the day started a bit cool and overcast, hundreds of youth and junior triathletes made their way through Voice of America Park in West Chester, Ohio, on Friday in preparation for the USA Triathlon Junior and Youth National Championship, set to take place over the weekend.
The record field of nearly 700 athletes representing 33 states includes beginners and experienced triathletes alike in 13 events. Action begins Saturday at 8 a.m. with the Junior Elite and Youth Elite draft-legal events, and continues Sunday with the team relay and youth age group races.
While many athletes showed up at the race venue to pick up their packets, 100 athletes took part in a free clinic that allowed them to scope out different parts of the race course prior to their events.
“It’s answered a lot of questions,” said Delores Mize, of Liberty Township, Ohio, who has two children participating in their second-ever triathlon on Sunday. “We are really novices and this is really helping to explain the details. It’s so neat to see people who have done it before, and have the coaching and leaders sharing these inside tips.”
Junior and Youth Nationals is a great experience for individual athletes, but the event also emphasizes the team aspect of triathlon, and clubs from around the country have traveled to Ohio to see how they stack up against the competition. The Southeast Region Junior High Performance Team brought athletes from Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee, and met Friday morning for a team meeting.
“It gets them in the right mindset,” said Southeast Region coach Kathleen Johnston (Nashville, Tenn.). “It helps boost their confidence knowing that they’ve got a team that they’re competing for and not just themselves. They’ve raced together all year long.”
With athletes coming from all areas of the country, there are a number of talented athletes competing. Among them are national and world championship medalists, future collegiate athletes and top-ranked athletes in the Youth Elite and Junior Elite rankings.
Maria Grilliot, a Youth Elite athlete from Spring Lake, Ohio, enjoys the opportunity to compete against some of the best athletes in her age group. “It’s really cool to learn from racing with them and experiencing all of this,” she said. “It’s really technical and you can pick up skills while you’re here. It’s a great learning experience as you race.”
This weekend’s events are inspiring and a chance to learn for both the athletes and their families.
“It really got our whole family involved in running together and biking together, and we’re swimming although they’re better swimmers than we are,” Mize said. “It’s gotten all of us out there doing it together.” She and her family are planning to visit the race site on Saturday to watch the Junior Elite and Youth Elite events in advance of her son and daughter’s races on Sunday.
“It’s just a really fun atmosphere,” Johnston said of the national championship event experience. “The athletes get excited and train hard for it, and it’s fabulous to showcase the talent that we have now.”
Visit the event homepage for more details.
USA Triathlon will provide race commentary and live results for the Junior Elite and Youth Elite events on a live blog beginning shortly before 8 a.m. ET. Click here for the live blog page to follow the action.