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T. Michael Hennessy, Law Office
Caruso Club
Friday, Sep. 22, 2017
Triple Threat Triathlon Club more than doubles in size
2017-08-25
by Randy Pascal

Coach Michael Nawaleniec might soon have to re-brand his Triple Threat Triathlon Club.

“Year one, I was at three athletes, and I didn’t want any more,” said Nawaleniec with a laugh, hosting practice earlier this week at the Delki Dozzi cycling track, instructing a group that has now more than doubled in size.

Not that the Club name was ever in danger of being changed. The “Triple” component refers, of course, to the three legs of the triathlon (swim/bike/run), and not the number of young triathletes under his watch.

Still, the growth in athletes and the scope of their achievements came with some initial trepidation. “I wasn’t sure how much time it was going to take, and to be honest, I don’t think I was really prepared for the challenge that coaching a club means,” said Nawaleniec.

“I’ve been lucky to have athletes that want to do the sport, it makes coaching them that much easier.” Undertaking his first triathlon in 2010, the Sudbury native ventured over to the world of coaching, almost by accident, more the result of a sincere willingness to help those who ask for help.

“Cycling is probably my core background,” acknowledged Nawaleniec. “What I’ve noticed is that the kids just want to have fun, while they’re training. I’ve introduced skills development on the bike. I didn’t think it was going to go over as well as it did. The kids, that’s their favourite thing.”

In reality, adding a little pleasure to the mix does not seem to have diminished the overall competitiveness of the group, not by one iota. In action at the final race of the 2017 Youth Cup a couple of weeks back in Dunrobin, the Triple Threat crew secured a pair of overall season titles, with Bella Mastroianni showing the way in the 14-15 Girls division while Ian Mackenzie went four for four in the races he attended, finishing first in each and every one.

“A couple of years ago, I did the triathlon in Orillia for fun, because that’s where my uncle lives,” said Mackenzie. “My brother (Aiden) started with the Club, and I was playing competitive hockey.”

“Last year, I decided to give triathlons a try, and just fell in love with it, so I quit competitive hockey to do this.” It didn’t take long before Mackenzie noted a very distinct difference in the atmosphere of his two primary athletic pursuits. “At the races, everyone cheers you on,” noted the grade eight student at Confederation Secondary. “In hockey, it wasn’t like that.”

A very solid cross-country runner from his days at Pinecrest Public School, Mackenzie had also done a fair bit of mountain biking in his youth. The swim, on the other hand, presented some interesting challenges.

“I was terrible at swimming when I started,” he said. “I’ve changed my form some, trying to close my hands so that the water doesn’t flow through them. And I’ve stopped being scared of the seaweed in the lakes.”

As for the cycling component, it wasn’t as though it was completely devoid of fear for the active youngster. “It was OK for me, but I was still a bit scared to go around the corners, scared I was going to fall at fast speeds,” he said. Results would suggest Mackenzie has conquered his fears quite well.

The real veteran of the group, Mastroianni completed her first triathlon at the age of seven, and has found a way to balance a stringent training program with the Sudbury Laurentian Swim Club with the time commitment needed for her to secure a berth, already, in the 2018 Ontario Summer Games triathlon competition.

“Everyone that I swim with just gets me so motivated to swim, everyone just pushes each other, which makes me want to swim more and always try my hardest,” she said. “Swimming is everything to me, but I do love triathlons.”

Mastroianni will be joined at the 2018 Games by teammates Aiden Mackenzie and Alex Lambert, an Elliot Lake native who joined the local squad. Newcomers, meanwhile, remain welcomed, including 15 year Lexine Moyle, the latest to enter the fray.

“I was training before on my own and did two triathlons before joining the club,” she said. “I was finding it pretty hard motivating myself. I was actually training at the pool in Gatchell when my mom saw Michael’s sign on his car. He was so welcoming.”

While most who fall victim to the temptation of the triathlon do so armed with a much better than average base in one of the three disciplines, Moyle would suggest she is more of a run of the mill, average athlete, one who is blessed with an outstanding perspective in terms of chasing down her goals as an athlete.

“I’ve done maybe five kilometers here and there, but I wouldn’t say I’m a runner,” Moyle confessed. “I don’t do Track North, I don’t do cross country, I don’t swim. I used to mountain bike a fair bit, but it wasn’t competitive, and it’s not with a road bike.”

“The swim is toughest, for me, for sure,” Moyle continued. “With the run, you can find little tricks and tips. The bike has been pretty easy for me. But the swim has so many elements that you have to figure out, so you just go at your own pace.”

And therein lies the key. “It could be a little scary at the beginning, but once I got to know them, they have to keep going at their level, I’ll just keep at my level, and maybe one day, I will be there,” said Moyle. “It’s all about sticking to what you’re capable of doing, and that’s what Michael is trying to say.”

That, and the fact that Nawaleniec is in it for all the right reasons. “The Club doesn’t exist to make money, the Club exists to help the kids develop,” he said. Even if that number of kids continues to grow.

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