Urged to Try ‘Turbo Tri’

A 300-yard swim in Gardiner’s Bay, a 7-mile bike, and a 1.5-mile run
Ali and Tali Friedman are I-Tri girls who already have made athletic strides — Ali in tennis and Tali in gymnastics. Ali, a seventh grader, recently won a scholarship to the Ross School’s Tennis Academy. Jack Graves

About two dozen members of the I-Tri (Transformation Through Triathlon) program, under the watchful eye of a half-dozen instructors, rode bikes Saturday on and around the Maidstone Park course in Springs that is to serve as the hub of two coming triathlons — one for adults 17 and over on June 21, and one for youth on July 13.

The course is to be the same for both triathlons — a 300-yard swim in Gardiner’s Bay, a 7-mile bike, and a 1.5-mile run.

Those who want to participate in the June 21 Turbo Tri can register through turbotri.org, or by calling 516-617-5721. Registration will include a Panera Bread-catered dinner at the park’s pavilion that evening. “Though you don’t have to participate in the triathlon in order to come to the dinner,” said Theresa Roden, I-Tri’s founder. “Tickets are $25 per person and $15 for kids. The triathlon will begin at 5, and the dinner will be at 7 or 7:30.”

“This could well be the only triathlon-centered empowerment program like this in the country,” said Kathryn Perry, one of Roden’s assistants.

“I did the swim and bike last year as part of a relay team,” said Margaret Thompson, a Springs School music teacher. “This year I’m putting all my energy into the bike.”

A champion of the program, she added, “I’ve seen kids who barely speak come out of their shells because of I-Tri — it’s great to have the support of a group, and great to have the older ones help the younger ones.”

Jennifer Villacis, a Springs student who’s in her second year with the program, said, “At first I was shy, but I-Tri taught me to be confident.”

“I’ve been doing better with my schoolwork,” she said in answer to another question.

“When I feel sad, the others pick me up,” said Pamela Pillco, a Springs student who’s in her first year.

Jennifer, Pamela, and Erika Lema, of Montauk, agreed that of the three triathletic disciplines they needed to work more on their swimming.

When told their swimming coaches (Sharon McCobb, Amanda Husslein, Annette MacNiven, and Diane O’Donnell among them) were great, Jennifer smiled and said, “Hopefully.”

I-Tri’s reach has extended over the past several years beyond Springs to Montauk, Southampton, and to East Hampton High School, where Abby Roden, Alana Ellis, and Alexa Berti — all I-Tri alums — have begun a club that now numbers around 25.

While one of I-Tri’s goals is to have its young teens, who might not otherwise do so, make athletic, as well as emotional, strides, some, like Tali and Ali Friedman — a seventh grader who recently won a scholarship to the Ross School’s Tennis Academy — come to the program with pretty strong athletic skills, which they — Tali recently switched from competitive gymnastics to dance — can pass on.