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Tucson J gets wet n’ wild with youth triathlon

Tucson local Emily Eichelberger is going to test her mettle on Aug. 16 when she competes in Splash and Dash Youth Aquathon at the Tucson Jewish Community Center.

The youth sports event combines swimming and running and was created by USA Triathlon to introduce young athletes to the multi-sport event. The Tucson JCC is the only J to be hosting one of the 45 nationwide Splash & Dash events this year; and it is the only venue in the Southwest.

As for Emily, she’s just ready to compete.

“I like triathlons because they have three of my favorite sports,” she says. “The harder you train, the easier it gets. All I want to do during the race is beat the boys! That’s what I train for.”

Emily is very active with the Youth Tri Team at the Tucson J, and has won several challenges already. She trains with Robin Kremer, a USA Triathlon Level I coach. The JCC has partnered with the local Tucsonan, a principal owner of iTri Tucson Center at Fitworks, who helped the JCC launch the Youth Tri Team in January.

According to Susan Frank, director of health and wellness at the JCC, the program is part of the JCC’s overall approach to youth fitness that helps build their confidence and the JCC’s program.

“We believe if kids and youth learn healthy habits early on they are more likely to keep them to become active adults,” Frank says. “Getting excited about a sport is one of the best ways to capture children’s attention and keep them engaged. Experiencing improvement in both skill and fitness level along with friendly competition is key to youth programming.”


The 10-week Youth Tri Team program includes training in swimming, running and cycling; and also include cross training, nutrition and stress management. In addition to the training the Tucson J also hosts two events annually to encourage participants to put their new sport to the test — the TMC/JCC Tucson Family Tri open to all ages and the USAT Splash and Dash, which is just for kids.

The Splash and Dash event combines running and swimming. Runs can take place on the road, path or trail and the swimming component can take place in a pool, reservoir or ocean. While the focus is on fun, the young competitors’ speeds are timed.

The Tucson J event includes athletes age 7-15. Participants age 7-10 will cover a 100-yard swim and a 1-kilometer run, while athletes age 11-15 will cover a 200-yard swim and a 2-kilometer run.

It’s a unique opportunity for the Tucson J, according to Steve Becker, vice president of health and wellness services at JCC Association.

“It’s really exciting that the Tucson JCC is the only JCC hosting Splash and Dash event in the entire Southwest,” says Becker. “It shows that the JCC has made a real investment in offering a quality youth athletics program and that participants in JCC programs can compete at the highest level.”

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