Kids Triathlon continues growth

SEBRING - The weather was great and the turnout was even better, as the Heartland Kids Triathlon drew a record number 136 competitors Saturday. That's a significant increase from the 90 who signed up and the 80 who competed last year.

I'm very pleased, said Race Director Cherie Starr. This is a top-notch event. We have some really good kids who come out and are very excited. They've worked hard for several months training for this event and the smile on their faces when they cross the finish line is why we do what we do.

The Heartland Kids Triathlon also served as the USA Triathlon Florida Regional Youth Championship and was worth double points, which Starr believes also had an impact on the large turnout.

A number of the competitors were from Highlands County, but there were many who made the trip with their parents, many of whom will be competing in Today's Heartland Triathlon.

The winner of the girls 6-year-old division was Sebring's Kinsley White, who finished in a time of 30:43, while Tavares' Wyatt Babington won the boys division with a time of 23:15.

Jupiter's Courtney Diemar turned in a strong time of 23:10 to win the girls 7-year-old class, while San Antonio's Lawson McLeod won the boys division with a time of 20:03.

Tampa's Taylor Benedict captured the girls 8-year-old class with a time of 20:37, while Jackson Babington, also from Tavares, won the boys class with a time of 18:37.

The top two girls finishers in the 9-year-old class hailed from Jupiter, with Emma Cavendish turning in a solid time of 17:26 to win and Hayley Diemar taking second with a time of 19:08. Coleman Inglima, from Clearwater, won the boys class in 17:52.

The 10-year-old divisions were hotly contested, with Jacksonville's Katelin Gildersleeve winning the girls division with a time of 17:43 and Groveland's Lachlan Hovius winning the boys class in 16:23.

In the 11-year-old class, St. Petersburg's Regan Quilty came away with the girls victory, turning in a strong time of 33:20, while the boys winner was Jacksonville's Chris Messer, who finished in a time of 34:34.

Clermont's Ann Weigel turned in a strong effort of 31:02 to win the girls 12-year-old class in 31:02, while the boys winner was Ian Mignone, with a time of 33:33. Timothy Gildersleeve ran a strong second and finished with the same time as Mignone.

It was all Jacksonville in the girls 13-year-old class, with Katie Messer placing first in 32:15 and Nicole Warner taking second in 33:08, while the boys winner was Zack Quilty with a time of 29:59.

Clermont's Bailey Ward won the girls 14-year-old division with a time of 33:51, while Winter Park's Tristan Rhodes turned in the best mark of the day among the older kids, taking first place in the boys class with a solid effort of 27:49.

Hunter Hart, of Haslet, Texas, won the boys 15-year-old class with a time of 37:28. No girls competed in the 15-year-old division.

Starr said the event wouldn't be possible without the sponsors, thanking Florida Hospital, Winn Dixie, TD Bank and Budweiser.

It's our sponsors who make it able for us to put this on, she said.

While the competitors and their parents made their way back home or to their hotel rooms, Starr and her staff of volunteers were preparing for another all-night session getting everything ready.

We didn't sleep last night, she said. We didn't finish up last night until 1 a.m. so I'm hoping we have a better night's sleep tonight, but there's still a lot of work to do.