By Abigail Diehl-Noble
Running, biking, swimming—triathlon practice is a rigorous work-out for most adults but as a daily fare for middle school kids?
Absolutely, says Lake Champlain Waldorf School Triathlon team coach Maria Cimonetti. “Kids love triathlon because you never to stay too long with one activity. They feel like superheroes when they fly off the bike to run. The transitions are exciting, and the diversity of sports lets most kids find something they feel really good at.”
Cimonetti is also a believer in benefits that readily transfer to the academic realm. “One of the biggest challenges for middle school students is organizing their stuff, and in triathlon, they get really good at it! Best of all, they learn they can do something really hard, that they can push themselves through discomfort to get to an end. That applies to a physics test as much as to sport.”
The Lake Champlain Waldorf School (LCWS) has the only school-based youth triathlon team in the state, though youth triathlon events are growing in popularity around the country.
Cimonetti started her first children’s triathlon team eight years ago when she was coaching the swim team at St. Michael’s College. Maria herself is a triathlete, and several of her daughter’s friends were interested in getting involved. She found herself coaching a group of children ages 7-14 who made the daily trek out to St. Mike’s to practice.
The carpooling wasn’t easy, and after several years practices moved to the Waldorf School where most of the team was based. There students bike and run everyday from 3:15-5 pm, then take the bus to South Burlington where they swim from 6:30-7:30 pm.
This spring 25 Lake Champlain Waldorf School middle school students participated in the triathlon team, along with four high school students. Triathletes from Shelburne include Lucian Bryan, Merritt Bryan, Eliza Cadwell, Anders Heyerdahl, Nancy Hilton, Nina Lissarrague, Joji Roth, and Alison Simonds. High school students Carl Heyerdahl and Michaela Niemasz-Cavanagh participated, and LCWS junior Parker Swanborn, also from Shelburne, was assistant coach.
There are no youth triathlons in Vermont, so Cimonetti created her own mini-triathlon to end the season and let the students celebrate their hard work. They swam lengths in a teammate’s pool, biked six miles, and ran 1.5 miles. Then everyone shared snacks, popsicles, and memories of a great season.