Triathlons are typically the sport of elite and seasoned athletes who are looking for new challenges. Traditionally it was not a sport that people took to in their early years. However, a group of Lake Norman-area parents are charting a new path, having launched a group that offers early entry into the multisport competition for kids of any level. What began as just a couple of families and about 12 kids has more than doubled in just one year, creating community-wide opportunities to develop future generations of triathletes.Extreme originsLinda Gallagher of Huntersville first heard about kids’ triathlons from a friend. Her daughter, Riley, loved the idea, and competed in her first race when she was just 7. "She felt good about the race and caught the bug, says Gallagher.She wasn't the only one.Denver resident Taylor Hughes began competitive swimming at 4, and in 2006 she competed in Rodney's Great Kids Triathlon, organized by Mecklenburg County’s Park and Recreation department. When the Birkdale Animal Hospital Kids Triathlon series started in 2008, Hughes jumped at that opportunity as well.Riley, now 11, and Taylor, now 13, were among several local kids who qualified for the 2010 IronKids National Championship in St.Petersburg, Florida. While at the national event, a number of LakeNorman families recognized each other and started talking. “We all thought it would be great fun to have a team,” says Gallagher.The families from IronKids Nationals met again, and in the fall of 2010 approached two trainers, Kathy Goody and Sarah Matchett. InJanuary of the following year they launched the nonprofit traininggroup, Xtreme Kids Tri-Team. It started with about a dozen members, and by the end of 2011 it had ballooned to 32 kids. "It's bigger than we thought it would be," says Gallagher.Healthy environmentAs the triathlon training director at the Huntersville Family Fitness and Aquatic Center, Goody was a natural choice to help launch the group. She's also been involved with the Birkdale kids race series since its inception four years ago. "In 2008 we had the first kids race with 48 entries," says Goody. "Last year we had 250.” Goody works with the Xtreme kids in the pool. Matchett, a coaching manager at Cool Breeze Cyclery in Mooresville, helps train the kids on bikes, which in the winter includes indoor spinning classes at theCool Breeze Cyclery store. "It's great for kids that don't fit into other sports," says Goody, whose daughters, Brooke, 15, and Beryl, 11, are members of the team. "It keeps them moving and active and they enjoy it."Friends and competitionMadi Bowen, 10, of Harrisburg has been riding mountain bikes since she was 5, and saw Xtreme Kids as a way to stay active and also make new friends."Since I just moved to a new school it's helped me make friends," says Madi. "You meet all kinds of kids. Every time you go to a race there are new people to meet."Though they don't currently have equipment to share with theirmembers—each family must provides their own—Xtreme Kids does offerdiscounts through their sponsors, which include More Than ZeroTraining (MTZ), Hardcore Serious Fitness, The Spirited Cyclist, HFFA,and Georgina Emily Photography. They also offer weekly group trainingsessions, monthly training clinics and access to USA Triathlon (USAT)certified training coaches at a discounted rate.The access to trainers appealed to Angela Powers of Huntersville, whose 14-year-old son, Sean, has competed in a number of triathlons, and qualified for the IronKids Nationals 2011 during Xtreme Kids’ inaugural year. Sean finished third out of the 40 competitors in his age group. In addition to Powers, 10 other Xtreme Kids qualified for the National Championships. Although two were unable to compete due to injuries, four finished in the top 10 in their age groups, including Hughes, who finished 5th; Riley Gallagher finished in the top 20 of her age bracket. But Riley’s mom, Linda, says that for her and her family, it’s not so much about race results as it is giving kids a healthy outlet. "This group is for kids not into football, baseball, basketball or soccer. It's for those kids who don't have a sport of their own. We want them to find their fuel, be happy, healthy and active."
Xtreme Kids trains competitors from 6 to 18. For more information call (980) 875- 0102 or visit www.xtremekidstri.com.