While the vast majority of Guam’s children remained snug in their beds, huddled around their electronic devices, at church, or sitting down at the breakfast table, nearly 60 of the island’s youngest athletes competed in the Guam Triathlon Federation Kids Triathlon Sunday morning at the Marianas Yacht Club in Piti.

“This is a great opportunity for our kids to learn what triathlon is all about, go through the motions, have fun, and grow the sport on Guam and in our region,” said Jennifer Camacho, a volunteer, whose children placed first and second in their age divisions.

“We're just so proud. They watch us do it all the time. They've grown up watching us do this. They're still growing up watching us do this,” Jennifer Camacho said.

In a series of mixed-gender races, with varying age-dependent race lengths, participants competed in the 4-5 age division, the 6-8 age division or the 9-12 division.

“It's so important to start them young. As an adult triathlete who got into it as an adult, it is so much more difficult,” Jennifer Camacho said. “But it's great to see that we've got so many kids here on Guam that are already swimming, they're biking, they're running. So, why not put it all together? And it gets them outdoors. It gets them off devices, gets them outside, and they have fun.”

Along with being an avid racer, mother of the next generation of triathletes and race volunteer, Jennifer Camacho is also the senior vice president of Cars Plus Guam, the race's presenting sponsor.

“We're proud sponsors of so many different sporting events on Guam. And triathlon is no different. It's one of our passions, and we're just proud to be here for the kids and be able to put something like this on,” she said. “We have to thank Guam Triathlon Federation for helping us make this happen. And, of course, Guam Running Club, who's taking care of all the timing chips, the fancy timing chip system that we're using today with the kids. It’s pretty neat to see that they have an opportunity to really race like professionals with timing chips.”

Top of the podium

First-place finishers, from the youngest to oldest age divisions, included Joseph Thorp, Elizabeth Sawyer, Matua Camacho, Lily Price, Blake Whitaker and Vivienne Roedema.

In the boys 6-8 age division, 8-year-old Matua Camacho wasn’t the first out of the water but quickly caught up and surpassed Dylan Roedema, another 8-year-old and the division’s second-place finisher.

For Matua Camacho, there were several reasons for his gold medal performance, but he said “snacks” and “pancakes” were the driving forces behind his success. With a bag of snacks in his hand, munching away, Matua Camacho explained that a pancake breakfast was in his very near future.

Along with realized treats and the promise of more on the horizon, Matua Camacho’s top-of-the-podium performance was also made possible through the use of technology and a well-thought-out race strategy.

“I think I won because I had shifted my gears on my bike,” he said. “And also, I think, I kept myself at a run pace. I paced myself.”

Matua Camacho, who finished the bike and run portions faster than the rest of the field, fell a few seconds behind on the swim. He described the swim as quite short and rather easy, adding that he would have won that portion too if he had a clear path to the shore.

Matua Camacho, despite falling a few seconds behind Dylan Roedema, won the race in 14 minutes, 42 seconds. Dylan Roedema, who delivered an impressive silver-medal performance, finished in 15:23 but feels he will have a better chance in the next GTF Kids Triathlon. The second Kids Triathlon is slated for Aug. 20 at Gov. Joseph Flores Memorial Park at Ypao Beach.

Dylan Roedema, who was fast in transition and strong on the run, said his bike ride was not as efficient as it could have been.

“The only part that was hard was that Matua had gears and I didn’t,” he said. “I’m getting a new bike on my birthday, June 23.”

On the run, with Matua Camacho far in the distance, Dylan Roedema trailed Ian Franz. But with several meters to the finish line, Dylan Roedema passed the eventual third-place finisher.

“I thought I was going to finish third because there was a guy in front of me,” Dylan Roedema said. “But his weakness was running and my strong point is running.”

A split-second finish

In the final event of the day, a powerful performance in the boys 9-12 division, Blake Whitaker was the hands-down winner, finishing the course in 20:36, more than two minutes quicker than Tanom Camacho and JP Killoran. Tanom Camacho and Killoran, the second-place and third-place finishers, respectively, crossed the finish line a few tenths of a second apart. 

Whitaker, a boy of few words, described that swim as “hard to see,” adding that participants were “getting kicked,” and “you’re kicking people.”

After a division-best swim, Whitaker hopped on his bike and headed up the gravel road toward Highway 18. Whitaker explained his pedaling strategy as, “Sprint. Rest. Sprint. Rest.”

With a big lead and only the run separating him from a first-place trophy, Whitaker parked his bike, removed his helmet and began the final leg. With none of the lead runners in sight, Whitaker navigated through the course, which was littered with cyclists yet to transition.

“The run was good. I just kept running,” said Whitaker, the 11-year-old triathlon champion.