Challenge drives Steamboat’s young triathletes | SteamboatToday.com

Challenge drives Steamboat’s young triathletes

For Erick Yeiser and many of the other 32 triathlon participants in Wednesday morning's youth triathlon in Steamboat Springs, there's not much debate over which is the favorite of triathlon’s three phases: swimming, biking and running.

"I like mountain biking, and I do it a lot, and I like bike jumps," said Yeiser, 9 years old and in his second year of triathlon. "I just like biking the best."

And why not? Steamboat boasts an active cycling culture in the summers, and children take advantage of plenty of chances to ride or race with their friends, from Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club bike camps to Town Challenge Mountain Bike Series races to the weekly BMX events at Howelsen Hill.

For 12-year old racer Natalia Craig, however, things play out somewhat the opposite. Many may cite the fact that triathlon brings together a few of their favorite sports. Few may be referring specifically to the combo of swimming and running, but those two are what keeps Craig going.

"I'm not a big biker, but I definitely love running and swimming," she said. "The run and the 200-meter swim were like, 'Yay!' The bike was more, 'Ugh!'"

Craig and Yeiser joined dozens of their teammates Wednesday for what was the grand finale of the Steamboat Springs Triathlon Club's eight-week summer season. The group maxed out at 38 registered competitors for the second consecutive year; only the limit on available pool space has kept it from growing beyond that. They met throughout the summer, learning the ins and outs of the sport.

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It all came together with Wednesday's race. Athletes swam either 100 or 200 meters in the Old Town Hot Springs lap pool. They then briskly walked — no running is allowed near the pool, of course — to a transition zone just outside the OTHS complex, where they picked up their bicycles for a mile or 1/2-mile bike ride that ended at the pond on Spring Creek Trail.

They then ran a similar distance to finish back at the gazebo.

This year's season-ending race drew about 75 percent of the club, mostly those not on family vacations. The club, in its fifth year, has proven to be a mix of veterans and rookies. There were 23 who returned to the team with experience, including six who participated for their third year, and two, Gretchen Jacobs and Thomas Lewer, who were in for their fourth, and who actually took on roles as coaches this summer.

"It's a great program that is growing so much," said Marietta Roberts, one of the program's directors, with Joy Rasmussen, who couldn't attend Wednesday's event. "This is the opportunity for kids to learn the swim, the bike or the run. This is the time, between 8 and 12 years old, it's opportunity for them to know which sport they'll going into or they'll keep doing triathlons for the rest of their lives."

Nearly three dozen young triathletes agreed Wednesday. The summer's work in the sport may be over for them, but they're already thinking of coming back.

"I like that it gives you a challenge, something to think about on your off time," said Timmy Landers, 10, who also plays football and soccer.

"Triathlon really combines all of them," he said. "It combines it all into one really fun thing, and you can hang out with your friends and be challenged."

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9.

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