MINI-MINI HAHA GETS OFF TO RUNNING START: ?Jake Gustafson, 4, runs with his mother, Jennifer, during the Mini-Mini HaHa triathlon Sunday at Broomfield Community Center. Organizers had more than double the 50 participants they expected for the inaugural event, which likely means it will be an annual affair. ( David Jennings )

Throngs of burgeoning endurance athletes found their kick Sunday, swimming, biking and running their way to glory in the inaugural Mini-Mini Haha Triathlon.

The event, the first of its kind in Broomfield, put 113 of the region's fittest youngsters through the ringer of what many consider one of the toughest sporting competitions in existence. While more than one the 6- to 13-year-olds participants required a brow mopping after going through their paces around the Broomfield Community Center, the race was not about pushing pre-teens to their breaking points.

While testing, the abbreviated course was meant to pique the interest of mostly first-time competitors in triathlons and healthy life styles. And with smiles as ample as sweat at the finish line Sunday, it appeared more than one youngster discovered a place for them in the athletic and fitness world.

I really do hope this is something I get to do for the rest of my life, 11-year-old Broomfield resident Anna Barjenbruch said.

The Mini-Mini Haha ran a simple, but challenging, course tailored for each age group.

Triathlons have no set distances for the three disciplines, but two of the sport's governing bodies -- International Triathlon Union and USA Triathlon -- set the international standards at a 750-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike ride and 5-kilometer run. The Broomfield event came nowhere close to those lung- and leg-burning distances.

Dawn Rachjaibun calculated the Mini-Mini's course by coming up with what she believed was the most-feasible distance for the race's youngest age group. From the 6- to 8-year-olds' 25-yard swim, 1-mile bike ride and quarter-mile run, the Recreation Services aquatic director then doubled the distance for each jump to the next two age groups.

Unlike other youth triathlons, such as the Aug. 6 IronKids at the Boulder Reservoir, the Mini-Mini Haha paid no attention to finishes or places. Instead, the untimed race was all about kids cutting their teeth on triathlon.

We wanted the event to be much more low key than others, because we wanted to model it after the adult triathlon we host, Rachjaibun said. The Mini-Mini Haha is all about participation, getting kids into triathlon and promoting healthy lifestyles. Click on any photo to see photo gallery

A youth triathlon has been in demand because of the popularity of Recreation Services' adult event. The June Mini Haha Triathlon has become one of the town's most popular races, and its participants have requested a youth equivalent for the past five years, Rachjaibun said. Even though she knew the race has been in demand, the aquatics director failed to anticipate exactly how in demand a triathlon was for the community.

I was expecting maybe 50 participants, especially since we just started advertising three weeks ago, she said. At this point, the popularity of the race, I think means it's going to be annual.

With parents fervently cheering and ringing cowbells trailside, few children failed to find an extra gear. But there were sticky points for participants between the pool, bike path and transition areas.

Isaac Watkins found his biggest obstacle at the beginning of the race, with the 7-year-old Littleton resident finding it difficult to breathe underwater on the initial 25-yard swim. But if the first-time triathlete had it all over to do again, he has a elegant solution.

It would have been a lot easier if I would have brought my snorkel and goggles, he said.

Kieran Sweetman's challenge came at the opposite end of the race, with the 9-year-old Broomfield resident hitting his wall during the running portion. Swimming and biking had taken too much out of him by the time he got to the middle of his half-mile jog.

I was tired at the end, he said. It was tough.

Sweetman said pushing through the finish line was worth it, given what it meant to him.

It was an accomplishment, since Sweetman had run and biked countless laps around a park in the Red Leaf development in anticipation of the race. But it also was a family event for the youth. His mother -- Allison -- has competed in triathlons before, and Sunday the 9-year-old finished his first race with his older brother.

Getting to do the race with my brother was the most exciting part, he said.