24 Sep Conway Kids Triathlon: Rain doesn’t dampen spirits of participants
When rain clouds rolled over the Hendrix campus at 7 a.m. on Aug. 10, it would have been easy and understandable to cancel the race. Thunder, lightning and rain pounded the course at 8 o’clock, the starting time for the 22nd Annual Conway Kids Triathlon.
The volunteer race board met to determine whether the race would go on and the decision was unanimous. There were 250 kids, 31 in the Community Connections Special Needs Division, who had trained and wanted a chance to see the finish line. Race start was delayed an hour and everyone hoped for the best.
By 9 a.m. there was a break in the storm and the first division of 15-year-olds hit the water and headed for transition and the bike course. There were 75 to 100 volunteers in position to support the athletes and ensure their safety and the race was on.
About an hour later, with the pool lined with eager 8-year-olds and storm clouds nearing, the decision was made to stop the race.
“As much as I wanted to see these kids get on with their race, there was too much risk in getting them on the bike and run courses with potential lightning coming,” said race director Pete Tanguay. “In hindsight, this was a very good decision as hard rain and lightning returned as the last kids on the course were coming through the finish line.”
Thanks to the music provided by Fret Monkey Recording Studios and Christina Madsen’s emcee energy, the 6-, 7- and 8-year-old kids had fun while they waited out the storm for their chance to race. The bike course had to be reopened to traffic and a decision was made to allow the remaining athletes to do the swim course and get their medal at the finish line in the pool area. Although slightly modified for the younger kids, the race went on, everyone had a finish and there were no casualties from the storm.
The First Security Conway Kids Triathlon, one of the longest running athletic events in Conway, has been impacting kids and families for the last 22 years. This year’s numbers were up almost 25 percent from last year in the Community Connections division, in its third year, as well as the total numbers registered.
Completing a triathlon involves three sports (swim, bike and run) and the cooperation of the entire family to get the training, race day preparation and race day logistics done. The event is typically the weekend before the Conway school year starts, which makes it a perfect last accomplishment to summer vacation for the kids who participate.
One of the silver linings of the event is the donation of the proceeds of the race to Soul Food Café Mission, a non-profit organization serving hurting kids and families in the Conway area. Rick and Traci Harvey, founders of Soul Food, put the needs in perspective. “Last year, we provided services to over 29,000 people and 38 percent of these individuals were 18 years or younger.”
The Conway Kids Tri met its goal to donate $12,000 to Soul Food again this year.
Although next year’s race date has not been confirmed, it will either be on the first or second Saturday in August. For more information on the Conway Kids Triathlon, visit conwaykidstri.com. For information on Soul Food Café Mission, go to soulfoodcafemission.org.