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Organizers hope triathlon at Penn-Trafford draws more than 200

| Wednesday, June 12, 2013, 6:59 p.m.
Nick Hooper heads towards the finish line in the bike race.
Nick Hooper heads towards the finish line in the bike race.

Though it started as a children's activity, the Penn-Trafford Area Recreation Commission's annual triathlon has grown into a popular event that offers a challenge for athletes of all ages.

Now in its eighth year, the PTARC Triathlon —which takes place the Saturday morning — has many in and around the area gearing up so they can be ready to run, bike and swim for the finish line.

“It's a very extensive race, and most people, they train for it ahead,” said Cheryl Kemerer, PTARC director. “(Participants) come from the southwestern Pennsylvania region. There's a lot from Penn-Trafford, but there's some from the surrounding areas, from Pittsburgh, from all over the place.”

This year, PTARC hopes participant numbers top 200. From the sounds of it, that's an attainable goal.

In its first year, when it was organized as a one-time children's triathlon, the event drew nearly 80 kids, according to Eleanor Flannery, founder and volunteer coordinator. Last year, 194 youngsters and adults turned out for the event, which — with the exception of a few road biking portions for adults — is held at Penn-Trafford High School.

The triathlon's youth competitions are divided into five different categories. The length of their activities varies, depending on the age group. Adults are challenged to swim 200 yards, bike 11 miles and run three miles.

For those who aren't fans of all three sports, an adult team option is available. Those teams must include three members — one to swim, one to bike and one to run.

Awards are offered for first, second and third place in each age group and gender.

For members of PTARC, which has hosted the event since its second year, the annual triathlon offers the group to achieve in its own right.

“It's our goal to encourage physical fitness and healthy lifestyles,” Kemerer said.

The event requires volunteers on the sidelines to help out, whether by counting laps, directing races or setting up and tearing down equipment. With growing numbers of participants, there is also a growing need for volunteers. Flannery estimated she needs at least 60 this year.

The event has grown in popularity throughout the region for a number of reasons, Flannery said. The small size of the challenge makes it great for beginners and veterans.

The opportunity for all ages to participate is a big draw, as well.

“It's just a great event for kids and adults and a great introduction to triathlons,” Flannery said. “It's just a great family event.”

“The adults finish the race and they come back and the youth race is going on and they're cheering the kids. It's a really neat thing to see.”

Julie E. Martin is a freelance writer forTrib Total Media.

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