Manchester University
Oak Leaves

May 5, 2017

Youth Triathlon Provides Awareness of Childhood Obesity

Shelby Harrell

The forecast for Saturday, April 29, 2017 included a 41 percent chance of rain along with a 100 percent chance of fun, excitement and lasting memories for anyone participating in the second annual Youth Triathlon at Manchester University.

Chair of the Exercise and Sport Sciences and the Athletic Training Departments Jeffrey Beer, who started the event two years ago, describes the atmosphere of the Triathlon as cheerful and exciting. “The event is competitive with some,” Beer said, “but the event is overall challenging but fun.”
Beer gained inspiration for the idea while spending some time in an area of Chicago. “I noticed one being run after hearing some children cheering on each other,” Beer said, “outside my hotel.” Upon his arrival back into town, Beer brought his inspired suggestion to Dr. Ryan Hedstrom and Dr. Sun Kang, respectively.

As an assistant professor of Exercise and Sport Sciences and the head of Manchester University’s Sport Management program, Kang and Hedstrom spearheaded the marketing and event planning for the triathlon. “They get everything in order for the day of,” Beer said. “Ryan was one of the individuals who started this event two years ago.” 
Due to the fact that the triathlon is a volunteer event, students are not required to be present. However, both current sports management majors and those who are considering choosing sports management as a major or minor are encouraged to participate. “Sport Management helps with the event,” Hedstrom said, “in that they take care of organization.” 

According to Kang, who specializes in handling the marketing aspects of the event, it takes roughly four weeks to complete the marketing portions. “The biggest part of the process is deciding if we want to resurrect the event, we then have to find partnerships,” Kang said.  
In the interest of contributing to the events efforts to prevent childhood obesity and encourage healthy bodies and minds among today’s youth, Parkview Wabash Hospital and Chartwells sponsored this year’s triathlon. Each child who participated received a free bike helmet along with a variety of healthy snacks.
Though the length of time typically needed to properly market the event is equivalent to one month, the amount of time needed to plan the event as a whole is significantly longer. “It takes approximately four to six months to plan,” Beer said, “and to make sure everything is in place for this event with marketing, registration, etc.”

The inaugural year of this now annual event saw the participation of a total of 25 students with age levels ranging from kindergarten to fifth grade. “The goal of this year was to have tons of fun and be physically active,” Dr. Beer said, “while hitting up at least 50 kids.” Because children’s ages may or may not be a factor in their abilities to perform for a certain amount of time, different variations of the obstacle course were offered to different ages. 

According to the information offered on Manchester University’s website, students in the kindergarten and first grade age groups biked one lap around the mall, followed by running one lap around the track. Second and third graders then biked two laps around the mall before running two laps around the track. Fourth and fifth graders completed the full distance of the triathlon by biking three laps around the mall and running three full laps, or 0.75 miles, around the track. “Our expectation is to have somewhere the kids can have fun, and exercise, while learning how physical activity is good, getting free healthy snacks, receiving a free bike helmet and having a great experience,” Beer said.