First Tri-Warriors youth triathlon held at UNCP


Instead of sleeping in on Saturday morning, 100 youngsters were getting numbers painted on their arms and legs at a little after 6 a.m. on August 28.

 Scott Cherichella

Scott Cherichella running

They were on UNC Pembroke’s campus for the first-ever youth triathlon, sponsored by the Tri-Warriors Club of Robeson County.

“If I weren’t here, I would probably be sleeping,” said Will Belote, 10, of Cary, N.C.

An experienced triathlete already, Belote said swimming is his strength and running is the hard part.

“This is the longest run I’ve ever done, so that will be the hardest part,” he said.

Competitors from ages 6 to 10 swam 50 yards, biked three miles and ran one mile, and competitors from ages 11 to 15 swam 100 yards, biked six miles and ran two miles. The weather started out cool with a breeze but warmed up.

Club member and UNCP employee Terry Oxendine said that 99 young triathletes had pre-registered, but when Brian Maynor, a local banker and Tri-Warrior club member, checked them into the Jones Center pool, there were exactly 100.

Most of the athletes came from nearby, but some came from as far away as Virginia and West Virginia, said race coordinator Mike DeCinti.

“We posted this on race sites, but it spread mostly by word of mouth,” DeCinti said. “We’re very excited about the turnout.”

Grady Hunt, a local attorney and Tri-Warrior member, said a group started competing in triathlons and decided to form a club.

“A group of us started riding, then we started running and swimming,” Hunt said. “This is great for the kids, and we really appreciate the University’s support.”

Members of the women’s tennis and softball teams volunteered throughout the morning. UNCP’s aquatics program, led by P.J. Smith and Dr. Marian Wooten of the Physical Education Department, supervised the swim.

“This is what we do for our community,” said Smith, who has taught thousands of youngsters how to swim in UNCP’s pool. He opened the pool for one special group of competitors from the Pembroke Housing Authority.

“We brought about 20 kids,” said Lemark Harris, director. “We couldn’t pass up this chance. I am glad we came.”

Harris and the Housing Authority secured sponsors, and employees pitched in to get the bicycles and train the children.


Volunteers – UNCP’s tennis team was there at 6 a.m. with friends

“Our kids do not have bikes, so they had to learn how to ride,” Harris said. “This also teaches our kids respect for what this University stands for.”

Danny White of RMS Sports, which provided the timekeeping, said the event was a good one.

“This is a good turnout, and I expect they will have 200 next year,” White said. “Thanks to the University for letting us come and use these excellent facilities.”

Sarah Carter, wife of UNCP Chancellor Kyle R. Carter, welcomed the competitors, and then it was into the pool at 20-second intervals. Although they were not competing head-to-head, the final results were close.

Scott Cherichella of Lumberton, N.C., pictured here, won the older boys divisions by one second over Seth Hunt of Pembroke. Hunt was three seconds ahead of third-place finisher Antonio Massol of Lumberton.

Will Belote, also pictured, finished second to Thomas Ballou of Springfield, Va., despite having the best time in the pool. Kyler Brewington of Fayetteville, N.C., was third.

All the results may be seen at: