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Pint-Sized Triathletes Learn Big Lessons In Training

Dianna Douglas
Tamiia Liggins, left, and Asia Womack after their swim practice at the Baylor Tom Landry Fitness Center

In Dallas, the Tom Landry Triathlon will be held this weekend--it’s 400 meters of swimming, 15 miles of biking, and then 3 miles of running. Among the athletes at the starting line on Saturday will be a group of middle schoolers from South Dallas.

  Elijah Brumwell, a swim instructor at Tom Landry fitness center, had one more chance to get his class ready for the big race.

“We’re doing a 50—the first 25 is slow, the last 25 is fast,” he shouted to the nine kids in the pool at the Baylor Medical Center.

“Let’s go!”

None of these kids could swim last fall. At this practice, their arms slapped down ahead of them while their feet kicked them forward through the water. They looked like a real swim team, in matching suits, swim caps and goggles.

After months of practicing, sometimes three times a week, the kids got a little rowdy with their coach.  

“Demorie, pull your pants up!” Brumwell shouted. Demorie Small, a lithe 12-year-old, did what he was told, slid back into his lane and started swimming.

These kids are all between 10 and 14 years old, and part of an afterschool program for at-risk kids in South Dallas.

“The majority of adolescents get into trouble between the hours of 3 and 6 pm, so if we can keep them occupied, they’re less likely to get into trouble,” said Tyson Bain, manager of community outreach at the Diabetes Health and Wellness Institute.

He runs the afterschool program, with help from a handful of companies and foundations--mostly Baylor Scott & White Health and the City of Dallas.

They provide the kids with tutoring, healthy eating classes, and exercise.

The afterschool program is in its fourth year, although this is their first time training kids for a triathlon.

Bain used a strong incentive to get the kids to cross the finish line on Saturday. Actually, a bribe.

“All the kids get to keep all their equipment: their tri-kit, jersey, bike, running shoes, helmet,” he said.

They can even keep the bike locks that Bain gave them, if they race on Saturday.  

“I just like to swim, bike, and sorta run,” said Asia Womack, 14. She said she’s made big improvements at swimming since she began training. “I used to be a slow swimmer, but now I’ve speeded up enough where I think I could place first, second, or third,” she said.

Her friend and teammate Tamiia Liggins,11, is also pumped for the race. She hopes the months of training will pay off.

“It’s a lot of hard work,” Tamiia said. “Some days we do biking and running at the same time. We finish getting off our bikes, and just automatically start running.”

Every triathlete knows this lament.