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Elmhurst 11-year-old triathlete dominates in Chicago

Published: Monday, Sept. 1, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014 12:25 p.m. CDT
Caption
(Photo provided by Diana Crager)
Kennedy Calcagno, 11, of Elmhurst runs between events during the Kids Tri Chicago on Saturday on her way to first place among girls ages 11 and 12. (Photo provided by Diana Crager)
Caption
(Photo provided by Diana Crager)
Kennedy Calcagno, 11, of Elmhurst grabs her bike during the Kids Tri Chicago on Saturday en route to first place among girls ages 11 and 12. (Photo provided by Diana Crager)
Caption
(Photo provided by Diana Crager)
Kennedy Calcagno, 11, of Elmhurst sprints to the finish line during the Kids Tri Chicago on Saturday on her way to first place among girls ages 11 and 12. (Photo provided by Diana Crager)

ELMHURST – After swimming along the shore of Lake Michigan and pedaling past her competition on a lakefront path, Kennedy Calcagno of Elmhurst ran her way to first place among girls in her age division Saturday at the Kids Tri Chicago.

“My favorite part would probably be the run,” said the 11-year-old, who also won her age division last year.

Kennedy’s been racing in the Kids Tri Chicago since she was 6 years old when her mom, Dawn Calcagno, said Kennedy started to get bored with her swim lessons.

Also an athlete, Dawn began racing in triathlons after running a marathon and worrying about the toll long-distance running could take on her body.

“I feel it’s really important that she has a good balance,” Dawn said of Kennedy racing triathlons.

In addition to competing, Kennedy swims year round and runs in Charlie Kern’s Championship Training Academy during the summer where she learns proper stretching along with running techniques, her mother said. Kennedy’s dad, Michael, is also a chiropractor at Olympia Chiropractic and Physical Therapy, and he does his best to make sure Kennedy stays healthy.

Kennedy seemed to instantly share her mom’s love for triathlons.

“She didn’t seem to be phased about running into Lake Michigan,” Dawn said.

During Saturday’s triathlon, Kennedy swam 200 meters, biked 8 kilometres and finished with a 2-kilometer run. While the run is her favorite part, Kennedy said the swim portion is the most challenging, especially when it’s in open water and not a pool.

According to Scott Hutmacher, regional marketing manager for Life Time Fitness, which sponsors the Kids Tri Chicago, 1,050 kids participated in last weekend’s event. He believes kids are drawn to triathlons because they combine three sports most kids have done recreationally. While adults can be intimidated by organized competitions if they aren’t professional athletes, kids aren’t, Hutmacher said.

Even though Hutmacher said many of the kids who participate do little, if any training in preparation, some like Kennedy spend months preparing.

All that work pays off when Kennedy crosses the finish line.

“It’s kind of a relief that you finished it, and then you’re glad about how you did,” Kennedy said of finishing a triathlon.

Kennedy also looks forward to eating after a race. Her favorite post-race meal is a plate of plain crepes served with powdered sugar from Fresh Start Cafe.

This was the first time Kennedy’s brother, Michael, 9, raced in the Kids Tri Chicago as well. He’s raced other triathlons with Kennedy before, though.

“We’re just trying to give them the opportunity to try as many things as they like,” Dawn said of the kids’ list of sports and activities.

She expects them to pick their favorite later, but for Kennedy, it might just be triathlons. She already has her eyes on running or swimming for Notre Dame when she goes to college. She also plans to be a teacher when she grows up.

“I want to thank my parents, my running coach Charlie Kern [and] my triathlon coach Wez Parkes,” Kennedy said when asked about her success.

The oldest of five siblings, Kennedy inspires her brothers and sister to follow in her footsteps.

“They all aspire to do like she does,” Dawn said.

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