Community partners announce series to promote fitness

10 years ago

    PRESQUE ISLE — A growing interest in triathlon and run/walk events in Aroostook has brought together four County organizations, each working to improve the health and wellbeing of area residents, to present a series of activities in northern Maine this summer for all ages and ability levels.

    After seeing the number of registrants more than double for triathlons hosted for both adults and youth from the first year they were offered in The County in 2012 to last summer, a second offering is being added for youth. Additionally, a swell in participation in 5K races and fun run/walks throughout the region has spurred a new such event, the return of one of the most popular and unique, and the introduction of a half marathon for running enthusiasts in the coming season.

    The County Fit and Fun Summer Series was announced at a press conference last Wednesday in the pool area of Gentile Hall at the University of Maine at Presque Isle. Representatives from partner organizations UMPI, TAMC, CompetitorME and ACAP’s Healthy Aroostook Partnership were all present for the announcement, along with participants who will take part in the activity.

    The summer series will both begin and end with the triathlon events at UMPI. The return of the popular Tri-Aroostook for adults on the morning of Saturday, June 28, will be expanded this year with the first-ever Tri-Aroostook Kids contest following the adult competition in the afternoon. Both of these events, the only sanctioned by USA Triathlon in northern Maine, are being coordinated by CompetitorME, a new County-based organization, along with lead partners TAMC and UMPI.

    Youth will have another opportunity to experience a kid-friendly triathlon at the summer series closing event on Sunday, Sept. 7. Like the Tri-Aroostook events, the third annual REDY…Set…Let’s Go! Youth Triathlon, hosted by ACAP’s Healthy Aroostook Partnership, TAMC and UMPI, is based on the university campus, specifically Gentile Hall.

    “We are so pleased to have two of the region’s premier triathlon events returning to our campus at the start and end of the summer and to see even more health and wellness-focused activities happening in between,” UMPI President Linda Schott said.

    “The university has always been a strong proponent of physical activity and healthy lifestyles — thanks in large part to the dedicated efforts of faculty like Dr. Caroline Gentile, the namesake for our Gentile Hall wellness facility — so we couldn’t be more pleased to have our campus be a part of these events,” Schott added.

    The events are also a great fit for TAMC, which will provide volunteers and logistical and promotional support for all six of the activities promoted as part of The County Fit and Fun Summer Series. As the largest and most comprehensive provider of health care services in northern Maine, TAMC takes seriously its leading role in promoting health and wellness initiatives region-wide.

    “We are supportive of efforts to help people of all ages get active. It is great to see growing interest from individuals throughout the region, and from other parts of Maine, New Brunswick, and Quebec, registering to take part in these events,” TAMC President and CEO Sylvia Getman said. “It is clear, both from the larger numbers of participants and expanded roster of events, that we are helping our community get fit by providing activities that promote a healthy lifestyle for the young to the young at heart.” The County Fit and Fun Summer Series will feature two first-time events, coordinated by CompetitorME.  The Midsummer’s Night Glow Run, on Saturday, July 12, will include both a 5K and 10K road race departing from the Gehrig Johnson Athletic Complex at the Presque Isle Middle School just prior to sunset and winding through the streets of Presque Isle. 

    The second event will bring a half-marathon to the region on Sunday, Aug. 31. The Harvest Half Marathon (13.1 mile distance) is for all ages and will start and finish on the UMPI campus, extending through Presque Isle and area countryside.

    “CompetitorME is excited to offer a variety of events for the community, aimed at maintaining a healthy lifestyle for families of The County, specifically through triathlon and running races for all abilities. The goal is to provide safe, fun, and affordable events that one would find downstate, only in our back yard,” said Jonathan Kelley, CompetitorME owner and race director. “The combination of two triathlons, Tri-Aroostook and the new Tri-Aroostook Kids Triathlon, is a vision turned into reality. It is a wonderful way to allow families to encourage adult athletes in the morning, while the adults can then cheer on the kids in the afternoon. Likewise, we have designed the two summer running events to be equally family-friendly. We promise quality events with attention to detail and a fun atmosphere.”

    To bring home that message, the winner of the two previous Tri-Aroostook (adult) competitions and a young athlete expected to take part in the inaugural Tri-Aroostook Kids, who has previously and will again compete in the REDY…Set…Let’s Go! Youth Triathlon, spoke at the press conference.

    “The amount of effort behind individuals around The County to organize activities and events has been inspiring. Their greatest goal is for people to have fun, bring a sense of gathering and close bonds to motivate everyone toward health and fitness through people’s experiences. This can make all the difference when personal goals need to be accomplished,” said Shawn Berry, two-time Tri-Aroostook overall winner.

    “I am always looking forward to the next triathlon, because it’s a fun way to keep in shape. It’s also a way to spend time with my family and friends,” said 14-year-old Jillian Jandreau of Caribou, who has participated in past youth running and triathlon events, and will take part in as many of the County Fit and Fun Summer Series events as possible.

    Berry and Jandreau were joined by 12-year-old  Grace Bemis of Presque Isle, the top female finisher in the 11-12 age group in the REDY…Set…Let’s Go! Youth Triathlon last year. Bemis encouraged other youth to join in the event this coming summer.

    “I enjoyed the youth tri because the volunteers and people that run it are so nice. I like to compete and wanted to try triathlon after watching my parents in their races. Other kids should participate because it’s a fun way to get fit and meet new people,” said Bemis.

    Jamie Chandler, community transformation grant coordinator for ACAP’s Healthy Aroostook Partnership, who is the REDY race co-director with Adam Murchison, shared with those in attendance at the announcement her goals for the Sept. 7 event.

    “We invite any youth to participate in the event even if it is your first event,” said Chandler. “The focus of REDY, Set, Let’s Go! Youth Triathlon is on family fun and healthy lifestyles. At the end of this year’s event, we want the athletes, their families, and the volunteers to continue to be engaged in healthy living throughout their entire lives and have fun while doing it.”

    The sixth event to be included in The County Fit and Fun Summer Series will be the second annual Color Presque Isle 5K, co-hosted by UMPI and the Wintergreen Arts Center.  Color Presque Isle, for which a set date will be announced by organizers in the coming weeks, combines fun, fitness and the arts, and begins and ends at Riverside Park. Proceeds from the benefit support arts programming at UMPI and the Wintergreen Arts Center. Last year’s event was among the largest fun run/walks in the region, drawing over 400 participants.

    Five training sessions will be held prior to The REDY…Set…Let’s Go! Youth Triathlon in preparation for the event, beginning Sunday, April 27 at 1 p.m. at Gentile Hall for training for the swim portion of the event with Erica Hemphill.