Swim – Bike – Run – Enjoy – (and Smile) [from the Chapel Hill News & Observer]



At the Chapel Hill Country Club this past Sunday morning, there was a magician, inflatable play apparatus, free ice cream, a fire-juggler, face painting, thirst-quenching beverages for the taking, and even a man on stilts.Did we mention the ice cream?

Incidentally, there was also a triathlon.

Ask any of the well-over 500 young participants in the fourth annual Swim for Smiles Youth Triathlon what was the favorite leg of the three-leg, swim-bike-run competition, and it was the write-in vote for a fourth option that carried the day: “The ice cream.”

“The running was the toughest part,” said Marissa Tocci, 9, who posted a top-20 finish in the short-course triathlon.

When queried if ice cream just past the finish line qualified as the best part of the day, Tocci responded simply with a nod and a wide chocolate grin.

For women’s short course overall first place finisher Sarah Taekman, 12, the race didn’t finish until the final scoop.

“I ran straight for the ice cream stand after I finished,” Taekman said, smiling.

Those spoonfuls of frozen cream and sugar helped the medicine go down, not just for the participants, but for patients at North Carolina Children’s Hospital, the Swim for Smiles’ benefactor.

With 542 participants this year, the non-profit Swim for Smiles Foundation’s Youth Triathlon is the second-largest youth triathlon event in the country. Open to kids from ages 6-18, the USA Triathlon (USAT) event includes two courses for all levels of participants.

A short course triathlon was comprised of a 100-meter swim, 2.5 -mile bike, and a 1K (0.6-mile) run. The long course consisted of a 300-meter swim, a five-mile bike, and a 3K (1.8-mile) run.

Chapel Hill High School varsity runner Alex Werden, 16, won the males’ competition on the long course, with a final time of 29:13.1. Rebekah Greengrass, 13, of Cary won the females’ division in 37:15.5.

“It hurt today,” said Werden, who was eighth into the pool thanks to his swimming seed time but made up ground on the bike and running legs. “It was a little muggy out, but it was fun.”

Werden said he’d not been training as much in the pool this year relative to the last.

In the boys short-course event, Ryan Lonegan, 10, won with a time of 17:06.4. Sarah Taekman, 12, was the top female in the short course (19:04).

“It felt really tiring,” said Taekman, who has competed ever since the event’s inception. “I was sort of wiped out. My legs were like Jello in the run portion.”

Gary Kayye, who founded the S4S triathlon with Laura Gondek, said Swim for Smiles’ longer event was growing at a rate of about 30 more entrants a year.

“We have kids as young as 7 doing the long course competition,” Kayye noted. “They’ve done the short course so many times, they’re confident in doubling the distance.”

Redrawn lines

Both courses featured rolling hills along the run course, however, which tested most competitors. Those hills included a 70-meter uphill jaunt to the finish line.

“Some kind of sick person must’ve thought of that,” Tocci said, laughing.

After thunderstorms sent everyone scurrying from the pool for the obligatory grace period during last year’s event, storms this year came during the overnight hours on Saturday evening, leaving virtually no trace of adverse weather by race time. The rain also left no trace of race course markings on the roads.

“All I was thinking (when it rained) was that we’d spent three hours marking the course with chalk,” Kayye said, “and I had to get up at 4 a.m. Sunday to mark the course again. But that was okay.

“The first kids started showing up at around 6:00 a.m., and they already had these giant smiles on their faces. That picks you up no matter how tired you are.”

Founded on the principle of “kids helping kids” in 2005, the Swim for Smiles foundation holds multiple events every summer, traditionally including the youth triathlon and Wacky Relay Day for the Chapel Hill Summer Swim League.

All proceeds are now donated to the North Carolina Children’s Hospital, and the foundation has donated a total nearing $200,000 to local children’s hospitals to date.

“We hope to be up around $20,000 or $25,000 this year,” Kayye said.” We’re small compared to most fundraisers, but not many bring in 2,000 people to one location like this either. Bringing that many people in and out of here in 4 hours and not having injuries: that’s what I care about.”

More numbers

“The race is a lot bigger this year,” Kayye added. This year, with 540 kids (compared to 435 participants in 2009) we moved the transition area to handle that number of kids, and we also doubled the number of volunteers. It’s been a little harder to operate simply because it’s so much larger.”

Kayye also expressed heartfelt thanks to the venue host, Chapel Hill Country Club, and volunteers who made bigger numbers manageable. N.C. Aquatics Club, with 54 entrants in the triathlons, also provided a sizeable number of race volunteers.

Merchants and organizations who lined the area near the finish line were also a benefit to competitors.

“When we started, I got the bike out of the car, and the back tire was totally flat,” said boys’ short-course 13-14 age group titlist Whitaker Burns. “It was slit open, but some people from (the Bicycle Chain) helped. If they hadn’t helped, I wouldn’t have been able to do this.”

Next up

The Swim for Smiles Foundation will be back in action July 10 for the Wacky Relay Day. This event is a season-ending opportunity for Chapel Hill Summer Swim League participants to come together and raise money. Events include noodle races, pyramid relays, and parent-child relays.

As for the Youth Triathlon, Kayye said he is happy with the size and scope of the event as it is currently.

“The growth is gratifying,” he said, “but we’re also happy with where we are right now. We have another 100 kids on the waiting list. … We may go to 550 next year, but I don’t think we’ll go any higher than that. We also want a quality race where everybody’s safe.”

If there’s enough room for growth, perhaps another leg for a “quadrathlon.”

Swim-bike-run …. and ice cream.

Contact Randy Young at chnsports@nando.com. To find out more about the foundation or how to help, visit www.swimforsmiles.org

Kids Helping Kids by Danielle Jackson [from Fifteen 501]

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Youth Triathlon is All Smiles

Intermittent rain showers couldn’t wash away the juggler’s flames or dampen the spirits of the 435 participants who competed in the third annual Swim for Smiles Triathlon early Sunday morning at Chapel Hill Country Club.

In what was half carnival, half sporting event, Swim for Smiles Foundation co-creator Gary Kayye made sure to note it was all smiles.

“This couldn’t be better,” Kayye said. “That rain that we had right as it started cooled everything off, the parents are really happy, the kids are having a lot of fun and the races started on time.”

The triathlon was open to anyone aged six to 18 and included both long-course and short-course races for those of any skill level.

Near the finish line you could see the participants red faced and exhausted as they rounded the last turn. They were greeted with a high five, a medal and the promise of gummy bears and frozen yogurt. Most bounced back quickly.

There was a magician, a juggler and a balloon-animal maker**** to keep siblings and parents entertained while their loved ones sweated it out on the course.

Long-course participant Justin Laatz, 12, of Chapel Hill said he was most proud of knocking at least a minute off his time from last year.

“I really wanted to do this because it was something I think I can really shine in,” Laatz said.

Alison Smith, 16, of Chapel Hill placed second among girls in the long-course race, but laughed when asked how she felt about her victory.

“I’m a runner, not a swimmer, so I didn’t feel great starting out swimming behind all the 8 year olds,” Smith said. “But then I felt better with the biking and running. It’s really tiring though.”

Smith said she’d come back as long as she’s able, partly because of the competition and a lot because of “all the free stuff we get.”

The Swim for Smiles Foundation, based in Chapel Hill, is an organization that raises money for the North Carolina Children’s Hospital through multi-sport events for kids.

Kayye first came up with the idea for the foundation when his 4-year-old daughter (now 13, and a participant in the triathlon) was ill and in and out of hospitals.

Though exact numbers aren’t totaled yet, Kayye said he expects the event will raise about $30,000 for the Children’s Hospital.

“Having spent a lot time in hospitals, I realized clearly what parents go through when their kids get sick and what the hospital goes through to help the parents,” Kayye said, “and it made me want to give back.”

Swim for Smiles Triathlon Chases Away the Rain Annual Youth Triathlon Continues to Grow [The Chapel Hill News]

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Swim for Smiles Triathlon [from REI]

Youth triathlon to Benefit Sick Kids, Families [Chapel Hill Herald Sun]

Swim for Smiles Foundation Announces 2009 Event Schedule [Southern Neighbor Magazine]

Youths in Triathlons Inspire Youth Triathlons

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Swim for Smiles [from Endurance Magazine]

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Fundraiser planned [from The Carrboro Citizen]

By Susan Dickson
Staff Writer

The Swim for Smiles Foundation will host the area’s first-ever youth-only triathlon on Saturday to raise money for the N.C. Children’s Hospital.

Swim for Smiles is a Chapel Hill-based nonprofit organization that raises money for children’s hospitals through youth swim-related sporting events. Gary Kayye, founder of the organization, said they hope to raise $20,000 through the triathlon.

The two-year-old foundation has already raised more than $14,000 for local children’s hospitals with charity swim meets and relay events.

To register for the area’s first-ever youth-only triathlon or for more information about the event, visit www.swimforsmiles.org. To make a donation, send a check to the Swim for Smiles Foundation, 400 Meadowmont Village Cr., Suite 425, Chapel Hill, N.C., 27517.