In its first two years, the Family Triathlon Festival, sponsored by the Waldo County YMCA, grew in popularity and it appears the event might take another leap forward with the addition of a junior division.

The third annual festival will be Saturday, May 12 at the YMCA. The event continues to offer a full sprint triathlon in the morning and a children’s triathlon in the afternoon.

This year will bring the addition of a junior division, a new challenge for children ages 11 to 14. These youth will begin the triathlon festivities in the first wave of the swim. Just like the adult participants, the children will be timed with electronic chips.

For triathlon participants ages 15 to 19 and 20 and older, the event will include a 525-yard swim (21 lengths) in the Tom & Sally Savage Pool (with a 20-minute time limit), followed by a 12.2-mile bike and 3.5-mile run on the roads in and around the area. All portions of the event start and end at the YMCA.

For participants ages 11-14 (junior division), the swim portion is 275 yards (11 lengths) in the pool, 3.54-mile bike ride and 1.54-mile run.

For participants 10-and-younger, events will center around Troy Howard Middle School, which is next to the YMCA. For that group, children ages 8-10 will swim 50 yards, bike 1.12 miles and run one-half mile. Those ages 7 and younger will swim 25 yards, bike 600 yards and run a half mile.

“We will kick off the afternoon with an exciting series of youth races,” said Beth Anderson, co-chairperson of the event. “The goal of our race is to get kids excited about participating in the sport of triathlon. For this reason, we will not time the children. Instead, all racers will receive an award for finishing, as well as a triathlon t-shirt.”

Like the adults, the children will start out swimming in the YMCA pool. After their wave is completed, they will be taken into the locker room where they will have a chance to dry off and change into biking and running gear, before moving on to the Troy Howard Middle School area for the final two portions.

Proceeds from the festival will benefit the YMCA’s children’s scholarship program.

The event is sponsored by Unity Foundation, UniTel, Inc., Belfast Pediatrics and the Waldo County General Hospital.

Triathlon applications are being accepted online at waldocountyymca.org.

Junior division grant

The Unity Foundation issued a $2,500 challenge grant to the YMCA Family Triathlon Festival, which will enable the group to add a junior division this year. The YMCA is actively seeking additional sponsorships for the festival.

“The Unity Foundation has supported this event since the inaugural introduction in 2009,” said Anderson. “The Unity Foundation played a major part in 2011 with increasing our participants in the ages 10-and-under division and building strong kids through physical activity. Their continued support in 2012 will help us grow the 11-to-14-year-old participation with the addition of a junior division.”

Laurie Smith, triathlon co-chairperson said, “After last year’s sparse participation in our 11-to-13-year-old age group, we have interviewed students, parents, and other triathlon directors and come up with what we think will be an exciting new challenge for our 11 to 14 year olds. In an effort to provide these athletes with a challenge befitting their skill levels, their competitive distances in the 2012 triathlon will be a 275-yard swim, a 3.54-mile bike and a 1.54-mile run.”

The grant honors Bert and Coral Clifford, founders of the Unity Foundation. “The Unity Foundation is pleased to continue our partnership with the Waldo County YMCA,” said Unity Foundation chairman Larry Sterrs. “We think this is a very special event that supports the children and families of Waldo County. The triathlon makes the Midcoast area an exciting place to live.”

VillageSoup sports staff can be reached by phone at 207-594-4401 or by email at sports@villagesoup.com.