Arielle Gold, 12, leaves her competition in her wake Thursday during the kayaking portion of a pentathlon at Old Town Hot Springs in Steamboat Springs. The event attracted 60 students who were out of school because of parent-teacher conferences.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Arielle Gold, 12, leaves her competition in her wake Thursday during the kayaking portion of a pentathlon at Old Town Hot Springs in Steamboat Springs. The event attracted 60 students who were out of school because of parent-teacher conferences.

Pentathlon draws 60 children

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Abbey Habermehl, 11, races from the starting line and up toward the slides at Old Town Hot Springs, holding a narrow lead on Riley Brodie, also 11. Each was a part of one of the four-person teams competing in a pentathlon event designed to give students something to do on a day off from school.

— "Don't run." There may be no rule more golden at swimming pools.

It's one that was broken Thursday with almost every step taken by an eager flock of Steamboat Springs students.

Students ran wild at the downtown Steamboat health and recreation center, but it was all a part of the plan. With city schools out of session for parent-teacher conferences, Old Town Hot Springs helped shoulder the load, playing host to 60 children with the center's first pentathlon.

"We hope this was the first of an annual Parent-Teacher Day at the Hot Springs," said Jill Ruppel, the center's aquatic director. "Parents want something constructive for their kids to do, and we were happy to help."

The day's event was open to anyone in the community and charged $5 per participant. It split students in first through eighth grades into three competitive classes, then sent teams of four tearing around the facility in a race to clock the best time.

First, it was a winding sprint up a narrow set of stairs. Competitors then dove into the slides at the top of the facility and spun around into a hot pool at the bottom.

After a run through a shallow pool, they loaded into kayaks, paddled to one end of a larger pool and returned, before finally swimming four more lengths of the same pool.

"It's harder than it looks," 13-year-old competitor Penn Lukens said.

Maybe, but he and his team, The Speedy Sloths, made it look pretty easy, winning the sixth-to-eighth-grade division.

The day's activities were the brainchild of Ruppel, who took over the position in September. It was her second effort to plan activities to coincide with a day off from school, and the concept seems to be catching on.

"The first one we did, we only got about 15 kids," Ruppel said. "With this one, it really took off. My brain is already working on what we'll do the next time this comes around."

Racing on teams bearing all sorts of funky names - the Sloths edged out a team of girls, the Chick-A-Chick-A-Boom-Boom squad - the students had little trouble surviving the few minutes of shivers between each steaming hot pool.

Standing along the pool's edge, wrapped in winter coats and stocking caps, their parents didn't seem to mind, either.

"It's wonderful," said Stephanie Loomis, whose 12-year old daughter, Marley, participated. "She's playing hockey now and transitioning to winter sports, but she came down just for this and had a really good time."

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