Jake McEneaney, 14, is an example for his peers about how hard work can make a difference. Of course, athletic inclination helped the Aurora triathlete, too.
The Multisport Madness Triathlon Team has been hosting a youth triathlon annually for 13 years. Jake competed seriously for the first time in last year's race and joined the team that summer after finishing in the middle of the pack.
His improvement has been tangible. The teen finished as the top male competitor Sunday and the fastest runner in the swim-bike-run competition at Cadence Fitness and Health Center in Geneva -- it took him barely 8 minutes to finish the 1.55-mile running leg. Racers in his category also swam 375 meters and biked 6.2 miles.
Jake got his start in cross-country and track but plans to continue with triathlons for now.
"I'd love to stay serious with this, at least through high school, and see where it takes me," he said.
While the Aurora teen competed with the elite racers Sunday, the triathlon is geared toward beginners and open to kids ages 6 to 16, regardless of skill level. "Juniors" swim 125 meters, bike 2 miles and run a half-mile while "seniors" swim 125 meters, bike 5 miles and run one mile.
Muriel Cease of Geneva brought her daughter, Cora, for the third year in a row to swim, bike and run in her hometown. Cease said a team of volunteers is always extremely helpful.
"And it's not overly competitive," Cease said. "They make it so it's fun for the kids."
The event grew to 155 competitors this year with a national contingent interested in the high-level competition.
A team from Oklahoma City came, undeterred by the recent tornado that ravaged the suburb of Moore. HIS Racing team coach Talbot Cox helped rescue Schaumburg Trustee Frank Kozak and his wife Char last week, both of whom were visiting relatives in Oklahoma when the tornado hit.
He said his group was especially appreciative of the support from race organizers. Sunday's awards ceremony began with a moment of silence and prayer for all those affected by the tornado.
Four kids from HIS Racing traveled to Geneva and plan to be in Dallas next Saturday for another race. In all his travels, though, Cox puts the Multisport Madness Triathlon Team event at the top of his list.
"It's the most racer-friendly race in the nation that I've ever been to, ever," Cox said.