PEMBROKE — The Roberson triplets have been coming to the Tri-Warriors Youth Triathlon every year since it began back in 2010, however only two of the three competed.
Meredith and Noelle, the two girls, have not only competed, but have done well each year they make the trip from Clayton to Pembroke. However, their brother Kirby didn’t compete until the third year of the event, and only then because he had his very own personal volunteer.
At age 2, Kirby was diagnosed with autism. An event like a triathlon that involves not only swimming, biking and running, but where athletes are on their own the majority of the time, was not something Kirby’s father Blake felt comfortable with.
“We have always pushed Kirby to be active and involved, but since triathlons are not a team sport, and there would be lots of times when he would be by himself, we wanted to wait,” he said.
So in 2012 with special arrangements made with the Tri-Warriors Triathlon Club, Kirby finally got to compete in the race with his two sisters. He worked closely with an student-athlete from UNCP who acted as his buddy the entire time. The volunteer swam, biked and ran with Kirby from start to finish to keep him focused and calm.
Kirby didn’t win the race, like his sisters had done in previous years, but he finished 35th out of 68 kids his age. He also crossed the finish line with a smile on his face and a better understanding of what he can do.
Each year, more than 100 kids participate in this annual triathlon at UNCP, being held this year on Aug. 27. Even though a triathlon is made up of three things all kids love to do — swim, bike and run — not many are used to doing them back to back. So when a 6- to 10-year old completes 50 meters in the pool, three miles on their bike and runs for another mile (11- to 15-year-olds double that distance), instead of looking tired when they finish, they’re usually wearing a smile.
Triathlons, unlike a lot of “mainstream” sports, are not only an individual event, but competitors race against the clock, not the person next to them. So a veteran of the sport is always racing against his own time.
“That’s something we stress to the kids.” says Bryan Maynor, member of the Tri-Warriors Triathlon Club. “We want them to understand that it’s themselves, not the others around them, that they need to worry about. And that lesson continues no matter how long you stay in the sport and whether you’re competing in a youth triathlon or an Ironman.”
For information about the 2016 Tri-Warriors youth triathlon, visit the event’s online pages at triwarriors.com and facebook.com/triwarriors.
Mike DeCinti is the director of the Tri-Warriors Youth Triathlon.