For i-tri Girls, Youth Triathlon Pays Off
By Emma Betuel
Unhindered by thunderstorms, which cancelled the event one week earlier, the BNB Hamptons Youth Triathlon at Long Beach saw record times, first-time winners, and brought six months of training to a close for nearly 130 i-tri girls.
Triathletes, some from as far as Nassau county, assembled on the beach on Thursday, July 20 around 5:30 p.m. ready to begin the first of the three events: a 300-yard swim, a 7-mile bike and a 1.5-mile run. Theresa Roden, a founder of i-tri, was in her pink t-shirt shepherding first-time triathletes to the beach. Roden, as well as dozens of other volunteer coaches, have been planning this event for months — arranging sponsorships, as well as preparing the i-tri girls to meet the challenges of a triathlon.
“It’s unreal to work with these girls,” Roden said. “We have girls come to us and they’re so shy and in this shell, and throughout this process they find themselves. As one of our Southampton girls said ‘you find your voice in i-tri, you find yourself, and you find your family.’”
The first i-tri girl to cross the line was Tahnie Sullivan, a Pierson seventh grader and first time i-tri participant. Tahnie is an ice skater and a surfer with plans to play field hockey in the fall. She gave it her all in the bike ride, and managed to hang on during the run to secure her victory.
“The hardest part was the running at the end, my legs hurt,” she said. “My favorite part was doing this with my friends.”
The first overall triathlete to cross the line was Tyler Pawlowski, who commuted from Garden City in Nassau to complete the course with a record time of 35:19.60. A rising 10th grader, Tyler has only competed in three triathlons, but has won all of them — including last year’s youth triathlon. Tyler made his statement from the first stroke of the swim, taking a commanding lead right off the beach.
“I came back this year to defend my title,” Tyler said after his race. “I swim for Long Island Aquatic Club — that’s my main thing, but this feels great. It’s really rewarding.”
Bella Tarbet, a recent Springs School graduate who will enter ninth grade in the fall, followed Tyler and was the first girl to cross the finish line with a time of 43:35.49. Bella has been doing triathlons for six years, but had never crossed the line first.
“The girl who got second and I were tied coming into the bike,” she said. “So there were a few of us who kept passing each other on the bike ride. Then in the run I pulled away.”
While Thursday gave these athletes the chance to perform for family, friends and coaches, the mission of i-tri — to empower girls through triathlon training — had been achieved far before the first athlete crossed the finish line. They embodied the mission of i-tri as they battled ocean waves, peddled away on bikes and ran on the road under the direction of their coaches.
“I love inspiring people and motivating them,” said Ally Friedman, an i-tri alum and rising senior at Ross who now coaches i-tri girls. “It’s great to see people trying new things and really going for it.”