SEBRING — For the past three years, the four children of Laura and Brian Van Fleet have participated in the Heartland Triathlon. Last year their parents participated in the adult competition and made it a family event. “It was very exciting and challenging,” said Laura Van Fleet, who is a personal trainer herself. This year the Van Fleet family will participate again, and they'll have a lot of company on June 14 and June 15. Cherie Starr, the director, said that last year they had 600 participants. This year, 988 people have registered.
As to why such a large increase occurred, Starr said, the word is finally getting out about the quality of the event and how much participants have enjoyed it. With the adult part of the event being on Father's Day, it attracts many families, Starr said. The event has four divisions: The event for children, ages 6 to 10 on Saturday includes a swim for 100 yards, a bicycle ride for three miles, and a run for a half mile. The event for children, ages 11 to 15, on Saturday includes a swim for 200 yards, a bicycle ride for 6 miles and a run for one mile. A sprint distance and talent ID series on Sunday, includes a swim for a quarter of a mile, a bicycle ride for 14 miles and a run for 3.1 miles. The olympic distance race on the same day includes a swim for .93 of a mile, bicycling for 24.8 miles and a run for 6.2 miles. During the event, the road closure schedule is as follows: On Saturday from 7 to 10 a.m., Sebring Parkway will be closed from Scenic Highway to North Ridgewood Drive, Ridgewood Drive from Sebring Parkway to Lakeview Drive, Wall Street from South Ridgewood Drive to West Center Avenue, West Center Avenue from Circle Park Drive to Lakeview Drive, Lakeview Drive from Pomegranate Avenue to Ridgewood Drive and North Franklin Street from Ridgewood Drive to West Center Avenue. On Sunday from 6:30 to 11 a.m. West Center Avenue will be closed from Circle Park Drive to Lakeview Drive, Lakeview Drive will be closed from Pomegranate Avenue to South Ridgewood Drive, one lane of Lakeview Drive will be closed from South Ridgewood Drive to Kenilworth Boulevard, North Franklin Street from Ridgewood Drive to West Center Avenue and Wall Street from Ridgewood Drive to West Center Avenue. From 7 to 7:30 a.m., Scenic Highway will be closed from Lakeview Drive to Sebring Parkway. Preparing for the event is a continuous process for the Van Fleet family. “I've got my bike in my bedroom, if that tells you something,” Laura Van Fleet said. Her four children, Zachary, 9, Elisabeth, 11, Katelyn, 13, and Julia, 15, also go to other youth triathlons. In between triathlons, she said, the whole family trains together. This year, she said, she wants to complete the events faster than last year. jmeisel@highlandstoday (863) 386-5834