LUMBERTON — In 2005, Mike DeCinti started competing in triathlons.
“That’s when I fell in love with the sport,” he said.
After catching the bug for the three-part racing events, DeCinti helped form the Tri-Warriors, setting out to start something else.
“One of our first goals was to establish a youth triathlon,” he said. “Our first event was in 2010 and it’s been great ever since.”
The Tri-Warriors will continue that tradition Saturday at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke with the fifth-annual Tri-Warrior Youth Triathlon.
The club had to cancel last year’s event due to bad weather.
Competitors from ages 6 to 15 will put their swimming, biking and running skills — in that order — to the test when the race begins at 8:10 a.m. Saturday.
“We have 100 or more kids to come out every year,” DeCinti said.
“This year we’re on track to have another 100, if not more. Entries usually pour in the night before or morning of the race.”
Haley George, Taylor Pait and Laci Rozier are expected to be among those competing in the event. The Robesonian published a feature story about George in the June 3 edition.
“We keep telling people, kids love to do these three things,” DeCinti said. “They probably just have never done it in a formal setting. It requires discipline but it’s very manageable.”
“Those that have caught the bug know that discipline and preparation are key. We get these two families that travel from Clayton and Cary every year. This is their sport. It’s great.”
But that doesn’t mean the event is exclusively for avid trainers.
“It gives you goosebumps when you see these kids that feel like that may not have been able to do this cross that finish line with that smile on their face,” DeCinti said.
The distances for the youth triathlon are much shorter than for adult events.
For children ages 6 to 10, the swim is one lap in the university pool, along with three miles biking and one mile running.
For children 11 to 15, the swim is two laps followed by a six miles biking and two miles of running.
The event is divided into four age divisions and even those who prefer to use training wheels on the bikes and float devices in the pool are welcome.
Volunteers from UNCP athletic teams also help the event run smoothly.
“We have a pretty good system going,” DeCinti said. “We rely heavily on UNCP for volunteers and we get a great turnout from the students.
“We’ve been lucky to never be short of volunteers. It really makes the kids feel safe and more importantly, the parents. It’s nice for them to see that there’s this many people looking out for their kids.”
In preparing for another year, DeCinti said the motivation is simple.
“Seeing these kids happy is what motivates me to work so hard,” he said. “I hope they fall in love with it like (members of the club) have.
“That’s what keeps me coming back. Out of 100 kids, maybe a spark is lit in a handful of them.”
For information about the Tri-Warrior Youth Triathlon visit triwarriors.net or call DeCinti at 910-827-2439.
Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182. Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.