For Theresa Roden, the smiles she saw on the faces of Noemi and Noely Sanchez at Maidstone Park in Springs on Saturday morning were all the affirmation she needed that the hard work she’s put in over the years as the founder of the i-Tri program has been worth it.At the second annual Turbo Tri—a short-track triathlon that gives people of all ages the opportunity to compete on the same course as the upcoming Maidstone Park Youth Triathlon—Roden watched proudly as Noely, an eighth-grader at the Springs School, cheered on her mother, Noemi, who competed in the Turbo Tri for the first time. The event includes a 300-yard swim in Gardiners Bay, followed by a seven-mile bike ride and a 1.5-mile run.
Noely is one of the “i-Tri girls,” a member of the community program founded by Roden that teaches at-risk adolescent girls self-respect, personal empowerment, positive body image, and how to live a healthy lifestyle through the sport of triathlon. There are 50 middle school-aged girls from Montauk to Springs who participate in the program, which culminates each year in the youth triathlon. The girls train for the triathlon throughout the year, and for most of them, just participating in it, let alone finishing it, is something they never thought they’d accomplish.
Of the 70 people who competed in this year’s Turbo Tri—which represented a doubling of the participants in the inaugural event—10 of them were parents of i-Tri girls, including Ms. Sanchez. Like her daughter, Ms. Sanchez had never previously considered herself the type of person who could make it through a triathlon, even a short one. And the fact that both mother and daughter were even there to begin with was a miracle as well. Three years ago, Ms. Sanchez was attacked by her estranged husband and was seriously injured in the incident, which took place at their home in Springs while Noely was home. She joined the i-Tri program just a few days later, according to Roden, who said the transformation she has seen in both Ms. Sanchez and her daughter has been remarkable.
“I watched this little girl come back to herself and just blossom and truly be transformed through this process,” Roden said.
Roden described how she has watched Ms. Sanchez cheer on her daughter in the youth triathlon in recent years before becoming inspired to begin what Roden called “her own journey of recovery and transformation.” Roden said that Ms. Sanchez couldn’t swim, didn’t have a bike, and had a very unorthodox style of running prior to training for the Turbo Tri. She learned to swim and got a bike, but she didn’t change her running style, which Roden described as a “run dance,” a blending of Ms. Sanchez’s primary passion in life.
“You’ll see her out on the road doing this crazy run-dance,” Roden said. “She’s been working so hard, and telling the world that she’s doing this. She showed up in all pink, with the hugest smile on her face, and there wasn’t a dry eye when she crossed the finish line. Things really came full circle, and the healing has definitely taken place.”
Thanks to strong participation from both the local community and those who traveled from the city or farther away to compete, the Turbo Tri raised more than $18,000 for the i-Tri program. Roden said the event appeals not only to those who want to support the i-Tri program but also those who want to get their feet wet in the sport of triathlon and may be intimidated by traditional triathlons with longer distances. Roden added that it provides adults with a chance to see what children in the community experience when they compete in the Maidstone Park Triathlon.
The East Hampton Volunteer Ocean Rescue Corps helped facilitate the competition, and Roden said their help has been crucial.
While moments like watching Ms. Sanchez cross the finish line embodied the true spirit of the event, Roden and the organizers recognized the top competitors, giving out prizes for the first-, second- and third-place finishers in three divisions, men’s, women’s and relays.
Peter Heinz, 36, was the top male finisher (40:15.42), followed by John Westbrooks, 30 (44:15.42), and Jeffrey Smith, 33, of Hampton Bays (44:28.39). Sally Dawson, 36, of Southampton was first among women (43:41.52), followed by Patricia Fall Salamy, 46, of Springs (47:05.75), the mother of i-Tri participant Sydney Salamy. Stephanie Brabant, 37, of East Hampton was third (47:55:79).
In the relay division, Margaret Thompson and Kristin Guarino of Springs won with a time of 52:20.21. Thompson is the music teacher at the Springs School, while Guarino is an i-Tri mom. Susan Roden, Rob Roden and Deb Donahue of East Hampton were second, in 54:34.38, while Kim Notel and Ana Jacobs were third, in 55:52.80.
The organizers also gave out “Spirit of i-Tri” awards to racers in each division who showed the spirit and determination to do something that was a challenge for them. That award was given to Ms. Sanchez, as well as David Valentine, 50, of Little Neck, the brother of Lisa Valentine, a longtime triathlete and i-Tri board member. It was Mr. Valentine’s first Turbo Tri.
Roden also was honored at the event—a surprise to her. Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman named Roden a “Woman of Distinction” for her dedication and service to the community.
Young triathletes will take their turn on the course in the Maidstone Park Youth Triathlon on Sunday, July 14, at 8 a.m. For more information, call Sharon McCobb at (516) 617-5721.