Colliding and falling to the ground as she tried to pass another cyclist during the Victoria Youth Triathlon on Sunday, June Sheppard didn’t so much as glance down at her scrapes and wounds as she mounted her bike again and continued on course.
It was this kind of grit and determination that saw 22 competitors from St. Margaret’s School (SMS) race towards the finish line at the University of Victoria on Sunday.
SMS would win the award for having the most participants from any one school.
And SMS brought home the hardware with five top-five finishes: One first place for Jamie Harker (13-15 years); two second place finishes for Peyton Harker (12-13 years) and Iris Anderson (8-9 years); one third place win for Gwyneth Poore (8-9 years); and one fifth place win by Eryn Keser (12-13 years).
“For Jamie, triathlon is her passion,” said father Morgan Harker. She will compete in five triathlon events in the B.C. Summer Games and in Washington State at the end of the month.
“I like seeing both my kids race, Peyton and Jamie, it’s so much fun to watch them,” said Harker.
Each girl’s resilience was a personal story on Sunday – whether she forged ahead after a setback, ran through exhaustion or injuries, pushed for a personal best, shrugged off a wrong turn or extra lap, or simply worked through anticipation and expectations and just did it.
Some of the girls saw best times as they flew through the courses, some their worst as they faltered and fell, but from the sidelines what was most apparent was their inner strength and an outpouring of camaraderie.
Triathlon training is offered to girls from Grade 3 to Grade 8 at St. Margaret’s School each spring in preparation for the race in early June at UVic.
This year the girls practiced twice a week at 7:30 a.m. from April through June, rain or shine. A handful trained elsewhere.
On the heels of predecessors Cheri Reimer and Jen Walton, this year Middle School STEM teacher Michael Jones led the training. He was assisted by parent volunteers Morgan Harker, Lucy Reus-Lanni, and Leslie and Dave Lloyd.
“I couldn’t have done it without them,” said Jones. He set out three goals for the girls: Fitness, fun and friendship.
The first training day April 5 was a biking day. It rained, but despite the dreary cold conditions the gym was packed with girls who showed up – the most important step.
From that first training day the girls learned how to care for their bikes.
During running days through the paths and fields around St. Margaret’s, they learned pacing, endurance and sprinting.
In the final days of training they focused on their transitions. This is the ritual of laying out towels, swim caps, bike helmets, water bottles, running shoes, and race numbers in parking lot stalls in the hopes of accessing them with lightning speed as each competitor transitions from swimming, to biking and finally running.
“For me, the best part is seeing the girls having fun, laughing with their friends – sometimes during the race – and trying their best,” said Jones.
That was the case for the two Musketeers Charlotte Bedford and Lois Delaney Harnett-Shaw.
Somewhere along the biking course on UVic’s Ring Road the Grade 4 students decided being first over the finish line was secondary to crossing together.
The two competed as a pair, encouraging each other and standing by each other when at different points fatigue or cramps set in.
“Charlotte was encouraging me through the whole running portion of the race. She kept my spirits high. I only got one chance to help her,” said Harnett-Shaw. “The important thing is that you’re having fun.”
Fueling competitors were positive visions of a win while others dreamed only to complete the epic sport – to be able to call themselves a triathlete.
Twenty-two girls succeeded on Sunday.
Unfortunately, Colette Reimer, who was legally drafting as part of a pack of cyclists, crashed and took a hard spill after another rider unexpectedly swerved and slowed down.
Despite her abrasions and disappointment, the elite triathlete who is headed to compete in Europe later this month, stayed to cheer on others.
“It was remarkable how she handled it, she shrugged it off graciously, that’s how she does everything, with grace,” said Athletics Coordinator, Emma Glasgow. “Through personal disappointment she’s always able to keep going somehow.”
In the final moments of the race on Sunday, SMS competitors – including some Grade 2s - raced along a green astro-turf carpet and through an inflated victory arch to awaiting parents, medals, and camera flashes.
“You feel really proud of yourself once you’re done,” said Paige Banks, in Grade 4. “I think that feeling is worth it.”
“It doesn’t matter if you come first, last or middle, you did a triathlon,” said classmate Lila Hedges
Victoria Youth Triathlon SMS competitors
Colette Reimer (DNF)
Lois Delaney Harnett-Shaw