Copyright 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC
All Rights Reserved
The day someone took the recreational activity of two people throwing a Frisbee-brand saucer back and forth while standing in the middle of a cul-de-sac at the end of their street and turned it into the sport of disc golf ... that was the day all bets were off on what recreational activity would be elevated next to the level of competitive sport.
Anyone interested in forming a triathlon team at your local high school?
We can't say it's coming, because it's already here ... or, at least it's here at Mundelein and Warren high schools.
The idea certainly got off to a good start. That is, it has a cool acronym: NITRO-HS.
It stands for Northern Illinois Triathlon Racing Organization for High School, and it has a website: (www.nitro-highschool.com).
What it needs are more high school teams; and then perhaps some sort of structure in terms of distances for the swim/bike/running competition; and then, of course, a season of the year in which to hold events.
Actually, NITRO-High School has held one event, last Sunday in Wauconda.
So, if it follows the UFC (a Mixed Martial Arts promotion) way of naming its competitions, the triathlon last week in the southwest corner of the county was NITRO-HS1.
Surely, NITRO-HS2 is on the way.
The engine driving this high school triathlon machine is Tim Ward, who teaches at Warren High in Gurnee and is sponsor of the Warren High School Triathlon Club. The club's been around for four years, according to Ward, but until now, it didn't have any school to play.
But just recently, Mundelein High formed a club team, so now we have two. And with two, you can have a match, which is exactly what the triathletes from the schools did as part of the triathlon in Wauconda.
A triathlon event has what seems like a zillion divisions, and there also are races of different lengths.
The Wauconda Triathlon created a High School Division - actually two, one for boys teams and one for girls teams - which was to set up the head-to-head racing between Warren and Mundelein.
At the end, the individual winner among boys was Will Kellerhais of Warren, who finished the half-mile swim in Bangs Lake, the 14.3-mile bike ride, and the 3.1-mile run in 1 hour 11 minutes and 28 seconds.
The first Mundelein boy to finish was Mac Holmes, fourth overall in 1:23.52.
Warren was the team champion based on better individual finishes. There were 13 entrants.
The girls winner was Jackie Shannon of Mundelein, who finished in 1:45.12. Warren's Lindsay Travelstead was second in 1:46.50. Mundelein was determined to be the team champion.
Not included in the Warren/Mundelein battle was Warren girl Hailey Mikolitis. She opted to compete in the "Olympic distance" triathlon of a one-mile swim, a 28.6-mile bike ride, and a 6.2-mile run, and was the only prep girl to do so.
Winning NITRO-HS1 obviously is big, and gratifying for the Warren student-athletes.
But somewhere in here, the number of schools has got to grow. Currently, there is a high school state championship each fall run by the Illinois High School Field Hockey Association (Lake Forest is the state power in that sport).
It has 20 teams that compete.
This is what Ward had to say about the new sport of high school triathloning and, yes, he's way fired up.
"This past year, the NCAA just made triathlon a Division 1 women's sport. The men's sport is likely to follow. High School triathlon clubs are very big in the western states and just coming online here in the Chicago area. Warren High has had a school club for four years now, and Mundelein High is in its first year of having an official triathlon club as well.
"Many national-level triathlon events have been hosted in the Chicago and Milwaukee area these past two years, and in September 2015, Chicago's lakefront is the host for the ITU (International Triathlon Union) World Triathlon Grand Finals. Our area's emerging role as host to some of the largest triathlon events worldwide is generating great interest in triathlons at the high school level."
Clearly, the goal is to get more school club teams formed.
"There has been great interest in starting similar clubs at other area high schools, and with the help of a few motivated teachers, administrators, athletic directors, parents and community members, as well as NITRO-High School.com, many more clubs will be ready for next year's competition," Ward wrote.
"NITRO-High School was created to assist in the creation and support of high school triathlon clubs throughout the region. As part of their goal, NITRO-HS is dedicated toward assisting school and community leaders in starting triathlon clubs, sharing resources and providing interested high school students with an affordable introduction to the sport of triathlons."
He added that NITRO-HS is the governing body for this competition league to determine such things as eligibility requirements for high school teams, event scoring methods, etc. He encouraged all interested schools and members of the community to check out www.nitro-highschool.com.
So, that's where we are at with the new sport of high school triathloning.
Warren's team website is www.warrentriclub.weebly.com.
Mundelein's triathlon program is headed by school wellness instructor Nancy Toland. She coached the Mundelein Tri Club for adults in the area and now has the school's club team.
By the way, Warren's team already has cornered the market on catchy team slogans:
"Blue Devils tri harder."
"You'll never know unless you tri."
And, of course the staple: "If at first you don't succeed, tri, tri again." Unless, of course, you don't know how to swim.