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Youth on the rise at Lavaman Waikoloa

Updated: 
March 28, 2015 - 7:44am

Lavaman Waikoloa has attracted athletes from around the globe to the Kohala Coast for nearly two decades, but what has race director Gerry Rott most excited for the 19th running of the event this Sunday is the abundance of local, talented youth athletes registered to take on the course.

“We are very excited about the number of high school kids coming out,” Rott said. “Until 2013 there were virtually none. When the Waverider Triathlon Club started they brought a handful to the Keauhou race, and then last year 16 or 17 in this race. Next year I hope it’s 50.”

Of the 37 total participants registered in the 14-19 age group, 31 are from either the Waverider or Konawaena Tri Clubs.

Rott thinks as the sport grows in popularity and other schools start up similar clubs, it would be an ideal high school sport.

“A lot of these kids may not be cut out to be a football player or a baseball player, so sometimes they end up not doing sports at all. This gives them another outlet,” Rott said. “It would be great to have it as a high school sport. Giving them three separate events to do — swim, bike and run — means they can excel in one and not necessarily the others but still have a great time. It is also a great self-esteem builder, and if you create high school teams it gives them that team atmosphere and camaraderie.”

Triathlon is not a cheap sport, so the Lavaman crew found a win-win way to ease the financial burden on the students while also getting them involved in the community.

“We grant them free entry into the race if they finish all of their hours,” Rott said. “They either work in the warehouse, at Lavakids events, or help at the running clinics as mentors.”

It also gives the upcoming triathletes an inside look at what it takes to put on a race.

“First of all, they have a lot of fun doing it, but also get to learn the intricacies of putting on a race. Things like having to put 2,000 individual stickers on certain things, or cleaning signs and banners — all the nuts and bolts,” Rott said. “I think they are going to be very good competitors knowing the effort that goes into a race and how much work the volunteers actually do.”

BEST OF THE REST

There will also be nearly 1,550 other athletes on the course at Hawaii’s largest Olympic Distance triathlon, including 13 Elite/Pro (three female, 10 male) competitors.

Oahu’s Tim Marr, the defending champion and three-time winner (2006, ’07, ’14), will be back to defend his crown.

Local athlete Luis De La Torre — the runner-up a year ago — will also be among the elite men’s field, along with Garrett Prinslow of Kailua-Kona.

Defending female champion Magali Tisseyre will not be back to defend her title, but local pro favorite, 2014 runner-up and multi-Lavaman winner Bree Wee will be in the field.

Toronto’s Leanna Lee and Alaska athlete Amber Stull will challenge Wee for the top women’s spot.

RACE DEDICATION

Lavaman has dedicated this year’s race to Bill “Papa Pea” Pagett, who passed away on March 14, 2015.

Rott said it was an easy call.

“Papa Pea has been a part of the race in one way or another every year — as a competitor, volunteer, or even a fan cheering his friends on,” she said. “He was an icon and pillar in our sporting community. He has always been a fixture here so it is very appropriate.”

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