Participants in the June 16 triathlon held at the Unicoi County Family YMCA gather for a photo after the competition. The race included a swim in the YMCA pool, a bicycle ride and 2.1-mile run. (Contributed photo)

By Keeli Parkey

The Unicoi County Family YMCA wants the people in the community it serves to be active. In order to promote this mission, the Erwin facility hosts a variety of events – the most recent being a triathlon held on Saturday, June 16.

The race, which was the fourth of its kind hosted by the local YMCA, combined swimming, bicycling and running into one event.

“I have always wanted to have some triathlons in Erwin, so when I became the CEO of the YMCA I felt like it was a good time to start them here,” Frank Cooke told The Erwin Record. “I organized several in South Carolina when I lived there and everybody that participated in them enjoyed them.”

The competitors began the race with a quarter-mile swim in the YMCA pool. Once that segment of the race was completed, racers jumped on their bicycles for an 8.2-mile ride. Cooke said the course for the bicycle ride traveled down Ohio Avenue to Sandy Bottom, traveled around Sandy Bottom, across Temple Hill Road and down to Chestoa Bridge. The bike ride continued up Chestoa Pike to Jackson-Love, Mohawk Drive and Gay Street before returning to their starting point at the YMCA.

The final leg of the race was a 2.1-mile run that took the competitors down Love Street and through downtown Erwin on Main Street before circling back to the YMCA via Elm Avenue and Gay Street.

“The run and the bike distances were based on what we could do here in Erwin, without making it very confusing,” Cooke said.

A total of 24 competitors have competed in the four races hosted by the Unicoi County Family YMCA.

“Many have run in multiple races,” Cooke said. “We need more competitors for future events since the Town of Erwin has passed a requirement that we have at least 30 people in each event.”

Hosting the triathlon is just one way the YMCA hopes to inspire locals to workout and be healthy.

“Our goal with the triathlons, as well as everything we do, is to get people active,” Cooke said. “We try to give children and adults options of fun things to do to help motivate them to get in shape. We also want to bring in people from outside Unicoi County so they can see the beautiful place that we live in and hopefully get them to spend some money in the county.”

One of the people drawn to Erwin for Saturday’s race was Chad Green, a Bristol resident who has participated in all four races hosted by the local YMCA and was the winner of Saturday’s men’s race. The women’s winner was Kelly Mitchell.

“This is a well-organized race,” Green said. “You can tell Frank Cooke takes a lot of pride in the race. He does a great job of getting a group of volunteers for it, making sure everything is laid out clearly and that everyone understands the basics of the course. They do a really good job at that Y.”

Green said he hopes more people will participate in the events hosted by the Unicoi County Family YMCA.

“It is such a well-organized and planned out event that I think people would really enjoy it,” he added. “I hope we can spread the word about it to get more involvement. You can tell Frank and the Y have put a lot into this and it shows.”

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The Unicoi County Family YMCA will host another triathlon on Aug. 11 beginning at 8 a.m. A children’s triathlon will also be held on that day beginning at 10 a.m. Children who are entering first grade through fifth grade are invited to compete in the triathlon.

Also on Aug. 11, the YMCA will host a “mommy or daddy and me” event for younger children.

“The event will be a swim across the shallow end of the pool and back, ride a bike for one mile from the Y to the hospital and back and then run two laps on our track (0.4 miles),” Cooke said. “The ‘mommy or daddy and me’ event will have a parent or guardian with the child at all times.”

For more information, call the YMCA at 743-3361.