The I-Tri explosion was never more evident than at Sunday morning’s youth triathlon at Maidstone Park.
Cheered on by a sizable crowd of parents, relatives, and coaches, including Theresa Roden, who several years ago founded the program, which has used triathlon training to transform teenage girls who would otherwise have been couch potatoes, about 80 young competitors, half from the Springs and Montauk Schools’ I-Tri groups, swam 300 yards in the bay, biked 7 miles through Maidstone Park’s environs in Springs, and finished with a mile-and-a-half run.
Thomas Brierley, a 16-year-old ocean lifeguard at Atlantic Avenue Beach in Amagansett, and a star on East Hampton High’s boys swim team, was the winner, in 35 minutes and 40.77 seconds, with his training partner and fellow swim team mate, Teague Costello, 15, not far behind, in 36:38.05.
Brierley and Costello were the first out of the water. Brierley was first in on the bike, though Costello, who’s a pool lifeguard at Sportime in Amagansett in the summer, was first out on the run, leaving Brierley to contend a bit longer with his shoelaces.
“Maybe I should give a transition class next year,” said Annette MacNiven, a top Xterra age-group competitor who was making sure everyone got out of the bike transition area safely. MacNiven and Amanda Husslein helped the race director, Sharon McCobb, prepare the I-Tri girls for Sunday’s race.
The winner among the female entrants was Nora Rosati, 16, a Montauk summer resident from California’s Bay Area, in 37:47.26. She was third over all, and right behind her, in 37:54.55, was 16-year-old Katrina Garry, a part-time Montauk resident who was a member of Friends Academy’s state-championship 4-by-800-meter relay team this spring. Rosati and Garry, whose elder sister, Kira, won this race outright in its first year and who now runs at Yale, train together, as well. The two are to take the ocean lifeguard certification test at Amagansett’s Indian Wells Beach on Aug. 6.
But winning was not what the day was about: It was about finishing, persisting, and improving, not to mention camaraderie. An observer ventured to guess that if this year’s I-Tri times were compared to last year’s, improvement would be noted pretty much all down the line. Spirits were uniformly high at the finish line that morning; the glow that comes with accomplishment was palpable. Indeed, as Roden has said before, not only did these girls deserve to be viewed as athletes, but as triathletes.
“She’s my star,” Roden said after Lizette Maurath had emerged from a tunnel of I-Tri well-wishers set up to greet the event’s participants at the finish line. “When we began in March it was the first time she’d been on a bike and she wasn’t that comfortable in the swim.”
Ana Toledo, 13, the first of the I-Tri girls over the line, when asked how she’d done last year, replied, “Not very well. I improved a lot this year, though I still have to work on my running.” Headed for the high school in the fall, Ana said she would play soccer in the fall, after which she’d do winter track and spring track.
Absent I-Tri, “I would have probably played soccer only,” said Ana, who agreed that I-Tri had, as had been the case with her teammates, expanded her horizons greatly. “It’s helped with my grades too.”
“We help each other,” said Tali Friedman, who finished behind Toledo, and who knocked out the most push-ups when the girls were being evaluated at the Y.M.C.A. East Hampton RECenter last winter. A gymnast as well, Tali said, I-Tri had “given me more confidence.”
“Her grandfather inspires her,” John Hennings, Paige Rucano’s stepfather, said, referring to Pete Rucano, who, at 86, runs six miles a day.
Paige’s mother, Michelle Rucano, said, “She was on Bill Herzog’s undefeated middle school track team. She did the 100, the 400, the hurdles. . . . I-Tri has definitely brought her out of her shell. Her self-esteem and confidence have soared.”
“I was going to kick Abby’s derriere,” said Kattie Fragola, who crossed the line with Abby Roden, “but then she said, ‘Let’s run together,’ so I did.” They crossed the line together.
On the subject of I-Tri, Roden, one of its leaders, said, “It’s been incredible how it’s taken off. We look at where it was and where it is now, and say, ‘Wow!’ ”
Tara Mansir, Kattie’s mother, who’s been an integral part of the program since it began, said of her daughter, “She played tennis and that was about it. She didn’t do any track and field. . . . I-Tri’s raised their confidence level. Three of them never swam before this March. One had never been on a bike. And now they’re triathletes, they’re eating healthy food, and doing mind-body stuff . . . everything that’s so important.”
Among those cheering the young triathletes on was Stacey Scarpone of Sea Cliff, the executive director of the Women’s Fund of Long Island, one of I-Tri’s growing list of supporters. “We provide grants to grassroots girls and women’s organizations focusing on leadership, economic stability, and social justice. It could be anything, not just athletics,” said Scarpone, a runner herself. “I love how I-Tri has exploded. These girls are recognized all over the place — it’s wonderful.”
The age-group winners were Julia Brierley and Will Howard in the 10-and-under division; Maggie Purcell and Jack Wolf in the 11-to-12 division; Amanda Calabrese and Hudson Cooke in the 13-to-14 division, and Lucy Kohlhoff in the 15-to-17 division.
Besides Thomas Brierley, Costello, Rosati, and Garry, the top 20 comprised Paige Duca, Ben Howard, Cooke, Wolf, Erik Engstrom, Calabrese, Kohlhoff, Purcell, Christian Brierley, Morgan German, Liana Paradiso, Chasen Dubs, Julia Brierley, Isabella Swanson, Grace Howard, and T.J. Calabrese.