By Jack Lauer
Parents and spectators flocked to Long Beach in Sag Harbor early Saturday morning to watch their sons and daughters compete in a triathlon organized by i-tri, an organization dedicated to empowering young girls through athletic training.
In a race that hosted more than 120 athletes spanning from i-tri participants to elite middle and high school athletes spanning 10 different school districts from Montauk to Mastic, the common goal was to compete and conquer a challenging course.
The 300-yard open water swim began at the halfway point of Long Beach and was followed by a 6-mile bike ride that took competitors through North Haven, and ultimately back to the finish line. Lastly, the athletes took off down the length of Long Beach, a 1.5-mile run, and back to the finish, where they were greeted by cheers and congratulations from parents, friends, family and fellow athletes.
Amazingly — and appropriately on this day — it was a 11-year-old girl who stole the show. Macy Putka, in her very first crack at a triathlon, came in with an incredible time of 35:59.27 to finish just ahead of Peter Sloniewsky, 14, the top male finisher, by almost 23 seconds. Gigi Putka, 9, finished right behind her big sister in the 11-and-under age group, sixth overall, in 40:15.06.
Sloniewsky had also never done a triathlon before and never even trained for the event, stating that he “just felt like signing up.” He admitted later that he thought he did “pretty solid” with his second-place finish.
Another impressive effort came from East Hampton High School track and cross country star Bella Tarbet, 16, who finished second among females and third overall in 36:44.09. The rising junior, who is a three-sport athlete in cross country, track and swimming, said her seven years of training gave her an edge on the course.
Tarbet attributed her love and passion for the sport to her mentor, Sharon McCobb, an athletic trainer with i-tri who began training Tarbet and her friends five years ago and has been with them every step of the way since. When asked if she wanted to continue her athletic career in college, Tarbet said she “likes swimming and running pretty equally right now so I would love to do one of those.”
Aidan Bartlett, 14, finished fourth overall in 38:15.67 while Dylan Cashin, another 12-year-old girl, won her age group and was fifth overall in 38:17.15. Amanda Koszalka, 12, of Southampton was the first i-tri girl to cross the finish line and finished in 44:24.27.
A complete list of results is available online at elitefeats.com.
In addition to the 11-year-old Putka being a winner on Saturday, the 10th year of the race “was the most extraordinary to date,” according to Theresa Roden, the founder and executive director of the i-tri foundation. Roden applauded the camaraderie among the girls and bravery of those who accepted the challenge of competing in Saturday’s race.
Roden, as usual, was overwhelmed with emotions and the crowds on the beach on Saturday, but said her favorite moment was when one of her i-tri girls pulled her aside before the race and showed her some writing on her hand that read simply, “I’m ready.”
It was a moment that brought Roden to tears and reminded her of the impact that a multifaceted program like i-tri can have on the girls.