People in swimsuits ran around barefoot in the parking lot of Wilson’s Total Fitness Center on a chilly Sunday morning eager to register for the Merrill Lynch Race for Sight Triathlon. Sign-ins completed, they stormed the gym and hopped in the pool for the first event, a 300-yard swim. They followed that with a 17.5-mile bicycle ride and a 3.4-mile run.
More than 550 people participated in the event, now in its seventh year. Proceeds benefited the Amblyopia Prevention Program of the Missouri Lions Eye Research Foundation. Amblyopia, or lazy eye, can cause learning and behavioral difficulties in school and can potentially lead to permanent blindness. The condition usually can be cured if detected and treated early.
The triathlon Sunday raised more than $10,000.
Family members wrapped in blankets lined the transition area, where contestants switched events, with handmade cardboard signs and cameras poised. Dale and Sharon Stripling of Kansas City cheered for their grandson, Dylan Stripling, and his friend, Will Scheible, both 13.
“Going through it with a friend helped me push myself,” said Dylan, who finished fourth in the 14-and-under age group. Will came in third.
Dylan started training during spring break by running, swimming or biking two or three times a week for more than an hour.
“I was nervous when I got here because I saw all of the people,” Will said. “I just kept saying to myself, ‘Don’t stop.’ ”
The boys finished swimming at the same time and transitioned to biking side-by-side, but Will returned for the running event before Dylan.
“It makes you want to go out there to see if they’re all right,” Sharon Stripling said, worried. Soon after, she spotted Dylan’s blonde hair and white shirt.
Close to the two-hour mark, Will’s and Dylan’s younger siblings met Will at the finish line, bending over the side to cheer him on.
“I’m surprised at how well I did,” Will said. “I’ll remember that if you put effort into it, you’ll do well. ”
Dylan arrived 10 minutes later and said he would remember the bike course the most because it was the hardest.
“I’ll do more bike rides when I train,” Dylan said.