Kids triathlon 'about investing in our youth'
Young swimmers line up before the start of the 2012 First Coast Kids Triathalon on April 29, held at the University of North Florida.

The City of Jacksonville and Jacksonville University have joined the list of community partners for the 2013 First Coast Kids Triathlon, which will be held in May 4-5 at JU, Mayor Alvin Brown announced Wednesday.

More than 2,000 youth athletes are expected to participate in the fifth annual event, which organizers called the largest in the country for children, according to a news release.

"The First Coast Kids Triathlon is about investing in our youth. More than sport, it's an opportunity to encourage character development and hard work while teaching about the spirit of competition," said Brown.

The event, he said, will help guide "young people on a path to healthier, more active lives," he said.

More than 350 volunteers are expected to help stage the triathlon, with as many as 6,000 spectators observing, according to the release.

"Jacksonville University is proud to partner with the city and First Coast Kids Triathlon to host this outstanding event for our local youth," said JU President Tim Cost. "We fully support efforts to improve the health and esteem of our area's young people. This triathlon fits well with our goal to make our campus and its expansive riverfront available to the community and deepen the connection between JU and the North Florida area."

Tom Gildersleeve, event director of the triathlon, said organizers "could not be more proud" to add the city and Jacksonville University as partners.

"Families across the First Coast have experienced the power of being motivated to be healthy and active through our efforts over the past four years, and these new partnerships will allow us to expand this positive influence," he said. "Our new venue is truly world-class, and we hope it brings national attention to the fact that Jacksonville is home to the largest kids triathlon in the United States."

Other community and corporate partners are Jaguars Foundation, the YMCA of Florida's First Coast, Florida Blue and Firehouse Subs.

Race distances will be set by the USATriathlon, the governing body of the sport under the U.S. Olympic Committee, and every race consists of four components -- swimming, biking, running and transitions. There are two divisions. Juniors 10 years old and under complete a 100-yard swim, three-mile bike ride and half mile run. Seniors ages 11 to 15 complete a 200-yard swim, six-mile bike ride and one-mile run, according to a news release.

The triathlon also features a first-of-its-kind program to introduce youth from underprivileged communities to the sport of triathlon. In a seven-week program ahead of the event, 60 youth will learn to swim and be taught the fundamentals of bike safety, proper nutrition and injury prevention. Then the youth will participate in the triathlon, according to the release, and keep the equipment they used.

The community partnerships also support the triathlon's outreach program that provides free healthy lifestyle classes in Northeast Florida schools. Every school that forms a team for the triathlon will earn their share of more than $10,000 that will be used to help schools buy equipment, supplies and materials necessary to keep kids healthy and active throughout the school year, according to the release.

More than 12,000 kids are expected to participate in the education seminars, with more than 1,200 kids representing their school at the event.

For more information about the triathlon, go to or contact event director Tom Gildersleeve at or (904) 448-2707.