Perched atop a stationary bicycle in the Libertyville High School cardio room Thursday morning, Julia Elsmo pedalled with apparent ease, not even bothering to use the machine's handlebars.
Elsmo, a junior, was on the bike for the second leg of a mini-triathlon that's a final exam of sorts for the 60 girls in Libertyville's Total Body Fitness classes.
Looking remarkably relaxed, Elsmo had just completed a six-length, 150-yard swim in the school's indoor pool. Her time on the bike would cover 3 miles.
The strenuous exercise didn't faze her. But the next leg of the triathlon — a milelong run — had Elsmo a bit concerned.
“I'm a horrible runner,” Elsmo admitted as she pedalled toward her goal. “I think I'll be fine. It's just not my favorite.”
The friendly competition was the first of its kind at Libertyville High.
Although boys occasionally enroll in the Total Body Fitness class, students typically are girls. The course stresses physical fitness and cardiovascular health over weight training or team sports.
The competition was inspired by similar activities at Glenview's Glenbrook South High School, where Total Body Fitness teacher Carrie Niemet formerly taught.
“We wanted to kind of change up the course,” Niemet said. “We wanted to teach them how to set goals for themselves ... and we also wanted to do something different, to challenge the kids a little differently than any other course in the school.”
The students spent four weeks training for each leg of the triathlon, building endurance and skill with each stroke, step and pedal.
Some students completed the triathlon Tuesday. Most competed Thursday.
Coaches record the students' overall times, including any time they spent changing into shorts, shirts and running shoes for the biking and running portions of the race.
Nicole Whittern, a junior on the school's swim team, was the first girl to complete the swimming portion Thursday morning. She finished minutes ahead of the other girls in the pool and was eager to move on to the next stage.
“I've never done (a triathlon) before,” Whittern said as she dressed poolside. “It's kind of an interesting experience.”
Up in the cardio room, physical education teacher Chris Davis got the girls on bicycles and on their way toward 3 miles.
“Just hop on a bike and get started,” he said as one teen entered the room, looking for a spot.
Davis was impressed by the girls' efforts.
“It's awesome to see people who go out and try to push themselves and see how far they can go,” he said.
When it came time to run, the girls headed outside. Their course took them on a path behind the school near scenic Butler Lake.
A light rain helped keep them cool and hydrated.
Senior Elizabeth Ulanday was the first to finish the triathlon Thursday morning, completing the course in 22 minutes, 1 second.
Ulanday, who ran track as a sophomore, crossed the finish line at a strong pace, her legs pumping steadily until she was past the group of coaches waiting there to record the students' times.
“I feel good,” she said. “It's kind of like what I thought it would be.”
Junior Anna Smiley wasn't far behind Ulanday, finishing at 24 minutes, 54 seconds.
As she munched on a banana from a table set up near the finish line for the girls, Smiley was thankful for the rain.
“It feels good,” Smiley said, her demeanor matching her name.
Students with the top three times in each class will get medals. Additionally, the student with the overall best time will receive a medal and a commemorative T-shirt.
Sophomore Morgan Dunleavy snagged the top honor with a time of 19 minutes, 48 seconds, officials said Thursday afternoon.
Niemet, who ran her first marathon last year, is proud of all her students.
“They worked very hard,” she said. “They were troupers.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.