VALPARAISO | Show and tell at Joan Martin Elementary School in Hobart is always one of the most anticipated events for Cody and Riley Johnston.
Though they might bring a video game or trinket sometimes, they often bring a new trophy or medal from the latest athletic endeavor.
Both boys collected hardware at the sixth annual Valparaiso Junior Triathlon on Saturday morning. Their regimen of biking every other day and an every-other-day push-up, pull-up and sit-up routine paid dividends on the swim, bike and run course around the campus of Valparaiso High School.
Riley won the boys division for a third straight year, but this year the 11-year-old was on the long course with the six-lap swim, 10K bike and 3K run and another competitor was close to him but was turned around twice and lost time.
“There were really good kids in my division,” he said. “My favorite part was the run — going up hills and then going down the street and seeing other opponents, giving them high-fives and then finishing on the track where everybody cheers for you.”
With older brother Riley up a division, Cody Johnston, 9, ensured that the overall winner of the age 6-10 division remained a Johnston with his 17:50 winning time, less than a second ahead of second-place Gunnar Garriques, whose sister edged Riley Johnston for the overall crown of the 11-14 age group. Gunnar Garriques was second last year in the same group.
“I like winning and getting trophies,” Cody Johnston said.
Jim Johnston Jr., currently an assistant football coach for Hobart, was a track coach for Merrillville for years after an athletic career as a football player and pole vaulter at Hobart, where his dad, Jim Johnston Sr., still coaches vaulters.
“Triathlons are sort of after my time,” said Johnston, who biked across America for St. Jude House long ago.
“This is something neat for them to do before football, basketball, wrestling, that kind of stuff.”
The boys’ mom, Heather, teaches physical education at Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Valparaiso.
When Cody and Riley, wearing Hobart football T-shirts after the race, gathered with friends Autumn and Tyler Turley, who wore Hobart Brickies apparel, they stood out against the green football field with a giant white V in the middle in the backdrop.
“For all four of them, it’s always all about competition,” Jim Johnston Jr. said.
The Turleys’ father is Hobart’s head football coach Ryan Turley, and the families will hit at least one or two more junior triathlons this summer.
Autumn Turley won the girls title in the age 6-10 division and was fifth overall.
“I liked the biking the most because I passed the most people coming around on the bike,” the 9-year-old said. “In school I do a lot of competitions, and I win a lot, and I want to know I can be the best when I race with other people. I felt like this year I was in better shape Me and my dad and the football players run the stairs at the dunes.”
Although there was familiarity at the top of the standings, one girl was a champion in her own right despite being the final of the 71 participants in the age 6-10 group.
Olivia Molnar, an 8-year-old girl with cerebral palsy, finished the race.
“We’re proud of all that the kids accomplished, but seeing everyone finish, especially (Molnar), that’s what this is really all about,” Ryan Turley said.
Molnar was assisted by family at times but received a warm ovation upon her finish on the VHS track.
“That was really cool for me to watch,” race director Leslie McCall said. “I think that was very cool, and I get choked up thinking about it again. It’s nice to see because that’s the spirit of all of this. She’s a winner because she finished.”
This was the second year that McCall and the Valparaiso Swim Club ran the event, and one new wrinkle was the distribution of special triathlon patches for local Boys Scouts and Girl Scouts.
The event drew participants from as far away as Michigan and the north side of Chicago. Next year the registration time likely will be adjusted to allow more runners to join.
“For the most part everything ran smoothly,” McCall said. “The kids were out there to have fun, and they were all able to try something new and have fun.”