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Young athletes take it to the streets of Elmira


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Sunshine and a light breeze made ideal conditions for the EDSS Tinman Triathlon on Tuesday, where Elmira placed third overall out of 20 competing schools.

The annual EDSS Tinman Triathlon was a hit on Tuesday, as 480 students and staff coaches from across the region competed in swimming, biking and running. [Whitney Neilson / The Observer]
The annual EDSS Tinman Triathlon was a hit on Tuesday, as 480 students and staff coaches from across the region competed in swimming, biking and running. [Whitney Neilson / The Observer]
EDSS teacher Margie Cressman, one of the event organizers, said a lack of rain and an enthusiastic group of volunteers helped make the triathlon run smoothly.

“It very much is an EDSS event, in that you need people at every single corner, so that people with nerves and so on don’t run the wrong way,” Cressman said. “They’ve all got walkie-talkies with them, so if there is an injury or someone is in distress, that people can get them. It’s a lot of students and staff involved behind the scenes because it’s a ton of setup and a ton of cleanup, getting the water to the stations, everything you can imagine.”

There were some 480 participants from 20 schools. Elmira was well represented, providing  nearly a quarter of those taking part, many of whom placed in the top six. Alana Shantz was the top female competitor for Elmira, coming in fifth for senior girls with a time of 1:15:15, while Brandon Berchtold secured fourth in the senior boys category with a time of 1:04:58 for the best male time for EDSS.

“I know we had over 100 students participating, which is pretty phenomenal,” Cressman said. “My gut feel is too, I think triathlons have gotten more popular. I do think it is very much something that kids can see themselves doing, even if they take on one event. They say ‘I’m a really good swimmer, or I’m a really good runner.’ And they find friends and make their team together. There’s no tryouts per say. You can say ‘hey the three of us are going to do this.’ That helps too.”

The Tinman version of the triathlon consisted of a 375-metre swim, followed by a 15-kilometre bike ride on the Kissing Bridge Trail, and a 5-km run to finish the race. It’s uncertain how long the triathlon’s been held. It wasn’t held for a few years, but was started back up again 11 years ago.

“The thing that is really cool about the Tinman is that it’s very empowering because sometimes the very top placements go to people who aren’t maybe very athletic otherwise,” Cressman said. “But lots of people try it, lots of kids try it that consider themselves physically fit, but not athletes. It’s very empowering that way. It’s not just hardcore athletes that do it.”

The staff coaches were the first heat of the day. Cressman notes they have good finishing times too because most of them are athletic. Laurie Murray, who runs the event, finished in ninth place with a time of 1:13:38.

In terms of training, most of the EDSS students prepare by themselves at the WMC pool and on the trails. Some will train hard, while others just show up the day of. There was also a triathlon training session offered. Competitors could choose to compete individually or as part of a relay team.

“It is a tradition here in Elmira,” Cressman said. “Our own kids, it may have been their parents or their older siblings that competed in it as well. But when I was helping [Murray] clean up, many kids from many different schools stopped and thanked her for running the event. Triathlons, when kids do hear about them, it’s kind of a big deal to try that.”

This triathlon, which is technically a trytri, remains more accessible because the swimming is done inside, meaning you don’t need a wetsuit. The distances are also shorter than a traditional triathlon. Centennial Collegiate and Vocational Institute in Guelph finished in first, and John F. Ross Collegiate and Vocational Institute, also in Guelph took second.

“No matter where you place, it’s really about giving your personal best, just achieving it,” Cressman said. “I say that to a lot of kids that do the relay, you know what, put it on your bucket list before you retire trying to do the whole thing. It’s an accomplishment.”

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