by Morgan Smith
Eleven-year old Zoe Rossouw is ready for her first triathlon this weekend. She’s been training for the past five weeks with the Morrison Family YMCA Youth Triathlon program, where friends and fun were important, but speed and endurance still ranked high.
The rising Polo Ridge Elementary fifth-grader is one of 25 participating in the program, and one of 175 kids participating in the Kids Tri! Ballantyne Friday night, July 13. It’s the kick-off to Tri! Ballantyne, which takes place Saturday.
For Zoe, running is her favorite part. It’s not the first time she’s entered races… she’s had experience running 5Ks in the past, but it’s her first multi-sport event and she said she’s getting nervous.
“I’m really excited about the running – I have really long and strong legs, so it’s just not that hard for me,” Zoe said. “But I’m nervous about the swimming; worried about the endurance.”
Ballantyne-area residents can expect some traffic this weekend, as the event is already sold out and 450 participants are expected to take part in the festivities. This year, participants are traveling to Charlotte from coast to coast, with some from as far west as Oregon. But Lisa Johnson, event coordinator and Union County resident, said the event is mainly to bring community members together for fun and healthy competition.
“I would say, based on last year, probably 60 percent of the participants are from our community,” she said.
It’s the third year for the Tri! Ballantyne events, and Johnson said they continue to grow and have become staples in the community.
“The multi-sport events have really caught on over the past few years,” Johnson said. “We do golf outings and 5 and 10K races, but triathlons, that’s something we hadn’t done yet. So we wanted to go ahead and add that to our events.”
While Johnson is busy making sure the races go smoothly, her husband Mike, and kids Ryan, 14, and Michaela, 12, take part in the races, competing as a family in relay style, Johnson said. It’s sparked a new category this year: the family relay. Michaela does the 300-yard swim, Mike the 12.7-mile bike ride and Ryan the 5K run. Twelve families or groups have registered for this year’s new category.
“Lisa suggested it as we race as a family,” Mike Johnson said about his family’s first triathlon together. “We thought it would be a great idea. Something new and something fun that we could just do together.
“Lisa suggested it as a category this year and we thought it was a great idea. Our two main goals are to have fun and improve our times.”
This will be the family’s first race against other relay participants. Last year, the team finished fourth in an hour and 12 minutes.
“Our goal is to beat that,” he said. Johnson also is a coach for the YMCA’s Youth Training program.
And for the Johnson kids, who volunteer at the Morrison YMCA summer camps, they’re just excited to be participating.
“I’m just always excited to compete against other people,” Ryan said. Both kids also participate in the Kids Tri! Ballantyne race.
The money raised from the races is for out-of-school programs for the Steele Creek YMCA, a sister YMCA to Morrison, and the underserved children in that community, Lisa Johnson said.
“A lot of the money that we raise for events like this is to help raise money for enrichment programs for those kids,” she said. “We’ll probably raise about $40,000 when it’s all said and done.”
Family and friends of racers are invited to watch participants, although they are asked to park at neighboring churches in the area and walk to the YMCA. Community members are encouraged to steer clear of Monroe and Community House Roads Saturday morning, between 7 a.m. and noon to avoid cycling traffic, Johnson said. Youth races kick off Friday, from 7 to 9:30 p.m.