Competitors from across the Midwest and around the world once again flocked to the sandy shores of Stone Lake in La Porte, Indiana for the 39th annual La Porte County Family YMCA Triathlon. The popular race is one of the biggest events for the local YMCA.
“We hold events like this to raise money to make sure that everybody in our community can afford to access Y programs,” said Michelle Shirk, Development Director for La Porte County Family YMCA.
Those may include one-time programs such as certain sports, a session of basketball or a session of swim lessons, or it may include ongoing programs, such as child care, preschool, even annual memberships.
“Our goal is to see that nobody has to be turned away due to their inability to pay,” Shirk said. “Ultimately, we would like to see people come here, have fun and get healthier. Everyone comes together to make this event a success.”
The race was open to ages 12 and up, but people of all ages were welcome to come out to volunteer or just enjoy the race. Registration for the race was held at Cummings Lodge in Soldiers Memorial Park. A variety of refreshments and food were also provided, from hot dogs and popcorn to healthy snacks such as apples and bananas. The event also saw sandwiches and heartier fare provided by a generous donation from Jimmy John’s.
Already one of the most popular events for the YMCA, this year’s was one of the biggest ever, with more than 200 triathletes lining up along the shores of Stone Lake to test their endurance on the course, which is comprised of a ¼ mile swim, followed by a 12.4-mile bike ride, and finishing up with a 3.4-mile run. Spardha Sharma of Valparaiso says that competition isn’t only in her blood—it’s in her name as well.
“My name actually means ‘competition,’” Sharma said. “My mother must have known from the moment I was born that I would live to compete.”
Sharma loves fitness, and even works as a physical therapist. Originally from India, she says that she enjoys the sense of community she feels here in Northwest Indiana.
“I enjoy biking and there is such a terrific biking community here. I’m also a member of the Northwest Indiana Tri Club. They’re just a great bunch of athletes, a great group of people,” Sharma said.
Elizabeth Downs is the healthy living director for La Porte County Family YMCA.
“Over the years we’ve been doing this, I’ve had a lot of people tell me that this is one of their favorite events,” Down said. “It brings a lot of people into our community, and any time that we can promote wellness and do something that benefits the community, that’s just a great process.”
Downs said that the event really depends on all those people who volunteered their time.
“It all really comes down to the volunteers. Without them, we couldn’t pull this off, and we are always happy to see more people volunteer to come down and help out.”
Andrew Labus, 15, from Crown Point, competed in the triathlon alongside his parents.
“My legs are so shaky,” Labus said before collapsing into tears against his father’s chest.
Andrew’s mom, Kathy Labus, says that Andrew spent a year training for the event.
“We wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for Andrew. I did my first triathlon here last year, and Andrew said that he wanted to do it too, so we spent a year training.”
“We owe it all to Andrew,” Kathy Labus said.
Jacob Kucik from Hobart says that he really shouldn’t have run today—he’s still nursing a case of tendonitis—but he just couldn’t let the chance to compete pass him by.
“I’ve been competing for seven years. I haven’t been here for the last five years, but I love it here! It’s a really clean, beautiful course and the Y really does an amazing job with this year after year,” Kucik said. “I hope they keep this up for many years to come.”
If you’d like to learn more about what the La Porte County Family YMCA offers, or if you would like to volunteer, visit them online at https://www.lpymca.org/.