Grade 9 Mount Douglas secondary student Holly Henry is competing in this week's senior steeplechase at the track and field provincials. She finished fourth at the Western Canadian Triathlon High School Championship at Shawnigan Lake on Sunday (May 26).

Saanich high schoolers lead the way at inaugural triathlon championship

Holly Henry’s experience at the inaugural Western High School Canadian Triathlon Championship was a chilly one.

Holly Henry’s experience at the inaugural Western High School Canadian Triathlon Championship was a chilly one.

The 14-year-old student of Mount Douglas secondary was first out of the water after the 500-metre swim in the super sprint division, the newly added high school event at the Subaru Shawnigan Lake Triathlon on Sunday.

Henry looked in control as she remained in first after the 10-kilometre bike too, before she lost function in her fingers, and couldn’t transition fast enough from the bike to the four-km run.

“I had a really good swim and had a 45-second lead on the next girl after the bike but when I got to the (final) transition I couldn’t take my helmet off and put my shoes on because my fingers were frozen,” Henry said.

“I had to ask an official to help me take off my helmet.”

Because of the slow transition she dropped from first to fourth.

Among those who passed her were little sister Hannah, 13, who attends Arbutus middle school. Hannah finished second and Holly fourth.

“I was disappointed with the result, but it was still really fun and I know with triathlons these things happen sometimes,” Holly said.

Cowichan Bay’s Desirae Ridenour went on to win the girls super sprint, one of two divisions created for the Western High School championship. Hannah beat out third-place Abby Speirs of Stelly’s by a second.

The super sprint (500 m swim,  20 km  bike and four km run)  for students 14 and 15 years old is shorter than the sprint distance (750 m swim,  20 km  bike and five km run), for Grade 10 to 12 students, aged 16 to 19.

Graduating Spectrum Community School student Meghan Kinghorn won the sprint and a $500 scholarship. Vancouver’s Carsten Lapointe was the top sprint male, and was an impressive fourth overall in the sprint category.

In the pro Half Ironman, multi-time winner and defending Shawnigan Lake champ Adam O’Meara of Victoria was edged out by first-year pro Justin Birks of Penticton. Victoria’s Janet Nielson was the second pro woman behind Ladysmith’s Tenille Hoogland.

With triathlon growing exponentially in recent years, it was the high schoolers who created a buzz around the event, particularly with the adult participants, who are supportive of the sport’s rise with the younger crowd.

“It was really fun to watch the youth prepare for their first triathlon and have their families here to cheer them on,” said race director Sarah Malerby.

Holly will be a favourite when she returns to the Shawnigan Lake senior race next year.  She won the 2012 B.C. Summer Games triathlon for 14 and 15 year olds and her passion for the sport is as high as ever.

“I’ve been doing triathlons since I was eight years old and I’ve haven’t gotten bored of them yet. I’m looking forward to racing in the junior elite level next year because the distances become longer and it’s more competitive,” she said.

This week Holly is representing Mount Doug at the track and field provincial championships, competing above her bantam age level in the senior girls steeplechase.

“What’s starting to happen is high school triathlon clubs are popping up across the country,” said Subaru Tri Series race organizer Paul Regensburg, who helped create the high school triathlon event at Shawnigan Lake.

“This gives those clubs a goal event for the school year.

“There aren’t a lot of triathlons during the school season. The vision is to have 100 schools participating.”

Triathlon B.C. and the Alberta Triathlon association each created scholarships for the Grade 12 winners, $500 each for the top boy and girl from B.C., and same for Alberta.

Schools participated from as far as Ontario.

The championships are also a qualifier for the 2014 World Championships in Edmonton for 16 to 19 year olds.

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