Thomas Brierley, a 15-year-old who the day before had been nosed out for second place in the Hamptons Challenge 2-mile ocean swim in Montauk, breezed to a win in Sharon McCobb’s Youth Triathlon (300-yard swim, 7-mile bike, and 1.5-mile run) Sunday at Maidstone Park in 37 minutes and 8.1 seconds.
But the event, in whose field of 53 were 19 members of the Spring School’s I-Tri program, made up of girls who, before joining, had not thought of themselves as athletes, was about persisting and finishing rather than winning.
Abby Roden, whose mother, Theresa, founded I-Tri about two years ago, and her fellow team member Camilla Tucci underlined that point as they crossed the finish line in unison, holding their hands aloft, in just over an hour.
As more and more I-Tri members crossed the line, they formed a welcoming arch in front of the finish line, cheering on those who came after them — the last one being a genial 9-year-old, Quentin Bazar of Amagansett, who apparently was more drawn to the beauty of the scenery that day than to the prods of competition.
Yes, said a smiling Quentin, who likes to play lacrosse, flag football, and baseball, he would have to work on his running.
Kira Garry, a part-time Montauk resident who won last year and who is to matriculate at Yale University this fall, was too old to defend her title. But her 15-year-old sister, Katrina, a Friends Academy sophomore who runs the year round, was there and acquitted herself very well, placing second to Brierley, in 40:48.9.
Coming out of the water, Brierley, who, though a freshman, was a major cog in East Hampton High’s boys swim team last winter, led Teague Costello by 10 yards and Ben Howard by 15 or 20 on the way to the transition area near the pavilion. But he widened the gap considerably on the bike and coasted to victory on the run.
Amanda Calabrese, who was to finish sixth over all, was the first female out of the water, with Garry a couple of spots behind, but Garry made up a lot of time on the bike and zipped out of the transition area onto the run in second place, ahead of Costello, who had preceded her into the pits.
Costello, a 14-year-old from Wainscott, was to place third, in 42:04.3. Rounding out the top 10 were Luci Cooke, 16, of East Hampton, in 42:23.4; Erik Engstrom, 13, of Amagansett, in 44:32.3; Amanda Calabrese, 13, of East Hampton, in 46:15.8; Jackson Rafferty, 13, of East Hampton, in 48:28.9; Paige Duca, 13, of Rockville Centre, in 48:52.3; Ben Howard, 14, of Southampton, in 49:30.7, and Christian Brierley, 12, of Wainscott, in 51:02.4.
The age-group winners were Julia Brierley, 9, and Evan Boccia, 7, in the 10-and-under division; Isabella Swanson, 11, and Christian Brierley in the 11-to-12 division; Calabrese and Costello in the 13-to-14 division, and Cooke in the girls 15-to-17 division.
Calabrese recently competed, for the second straight year, in Italy’s Olympics for 11-to-13-year-olds of Italian descent. She ran in the 80-meter dash, she said, finishing third.
Thomas Brierley, who had recently placed 35th in the Montauk Sprint triathlon and had won his age group (as had Garry), said, “This one was fun, too — it was so quick. This is more than a sprint. It takes a lot out of you.”
As for his win, by 21 seconds, over Mike Bahel, an experienced triathlete, in the Montauk Sprint, Thomas said, “I was surprised — he’s an amazing runner and biker. I think I beat him in the swim. That’s my strong point.”
Speaking of swimming, he predicted good things again for the high school boys team. “We’re losing Ben [Howard], who’s an amazing breaststroker — he’s done a 1:06 in the 100. He’s going to go to St. Anthony’s. But, otherwise, that’s it.”
“You have to come to compete — you have to sprint the whole way,” said Katrina Garry, who competes for Friends Academy in lacrosse in the spring as well as in track. In reporting that her older sister, a lifeguard in Montauk this summer, was heading to Yale, she said, “Our mother went there too, and ran. It’s in the blood.”
Not to mention that Katrina and Kira’s father, Bill, competed in the world triathlon championships in Budapest last fall in the 50-to-54-year-old age group.
He was cheering his daughter on that day as were many other parents, who had been told not to hang out in the transition area but could not resist.
“It’s the best run I’ve ever had,” Abby Roden said after crossing the line with Tucci.
She had wanted to be the first I-Tri member to finish, she said, in reply to a question, “but then I saw Camilla — I was a little ahead of her at the time — and I handed my water to her and said, ‘Why don’t we do the run together?’ It was fun running with her. It’s kind of lonely when you’re running by yourself. And it was good to have someone to push me.”
“I almost beat you,” beamed Katie Fragola, who came in 39 seconds later.
“It was easy,” she said in answer to a question. “I finished quicker than last year.”
Soon Katie was hugging a teammate, Kasey Brabant, who had, in reaching for a falling water bottle, lost control of her bicycle, hit a tree, and flipped over — apparently the day’s sole mishap.
“She kept going, though — she’s a true sportsman,” said Kasey’s father, Pat. “And she has the battle scars [bruises on her neck] to show it.”
When this writer said that all the I-Tri girls looked like athletes, Theresa Roden said, “That’s because they are. . . . We had 19 [of 22] here today and all of the 15 new ones did it.”
Diane O’Donnell, a girls cross-country and track coach at East Hampton High, who was among a number of other coaches, trainers, and lifeguards helping McCobb oversee the event that day, agreed that the future looks bright if these young teenagers keep at it.
I-Tri, whose motto is “Transformation Through Triathlon,” will be the beneficiary, along with the Breakwater Yacht Club’s junior sailing program, of a family-friendly fund-raising party at the yacht club from 3 to 7 p.m. Saturday.
“We’re calling it ‘Antigua and Barbuda Meet the Hamptons,’ said Roden, who helps her husband, Rob, publish Captain’s Guide yachting and boating destination magazines, adding that “the minister of tourism will be there, and there will be a steel drum band.”
Annette MacNiven, a world class age-group triathlete who has helped McCobb and Amanda Husslein train the I-Tri girls, said, “Theresa has been great with them. She’s strict, and they need that. The training is time-consuming. Things don’t come easy, and that’s a good lesson. They know if they work hard, they can do it. And they’re on a team, working with kids they might not otherwise have been friends with.”
“They’ve done something they thought they could never do, and at such a young age,” MacNiven continued. “They’ve broken a barrier — two barriers, the social one too. They know now that they can do anything.”