“It’s a tough sport,” explained Roberto Escobar, one of three coaches for the Forest Hills school’s group of eighteen.
Escobar, 19, a former Iron Man competitor, now trains with the team after school and on weekends because he knows what it takes to compete in this physically taxing sport.
“It’s really your training that makes you a great triathlon athlete because you have to train at your swim, you have to train in your bike and you have to train at your run,” he said.
Team members exercise in two-hour brick workouts, which combines two separate disciplines in the same session, all in preparation for their upcoming season.
Eric Stein, 39, dean at Queens Metropolitan High School and also one of the team’s coaches, has been promoting and raising funds in hopes that other schools in the city will join in as well.
“We have an awesome group of kids, and we have made some huge leaps toward training, but still have some serious hurdles left,” Stein wrote in an October post on the Long Island Triathlon Tour Facebook page. “Remember, we are a public school with no budget for this.”
Stein and the group train and compete against each other, purely for the love of the sport, he explained.
“We are hoping that other schools are looking at what we’re doing and make it their next sport also,” Stein said.
Stein organized a fundraiser event at a California Pizza Kitchen at Regal Atlas Park last week.
Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott attended to show his support for the new addition to the city’s high school athletic program.
“I like to find every way I can to come out and show support for the students, and even though I don’t eat pizza, I will come out and buy a couple of pies to contribute to the cause,” Walcott said.
Invited by Stein to help spread the word, Walcott, 61, discussed athletics in school and even spoke with the team about his own workout schedule, explaining that he too is an avid runner and swimmer, spending his early morning hours at the YMCA before work.
He spoke of skydiving with his daughter and his days playing flag football as a young adult, encouraging the group that sports and outdoor activities are a great way to build more than just muscle mass.
“I think sports is extremely important,” he explained. “It’s building the ability to have camaraderie with each other, and I think you see that here; the ability to learn how to support each other in doing better.”
As a NYC Marathon participant last November, he attributes high school athletics with higher grades and healthy living, explaining that aside from tackling youth obesity, “it creates an opportunity for our students to do better.”
“This will get kids to learn about collegiality, group work and having fun at the same time,” he explained. “If I can do these things on my own, I want to just send a signal to the students that they can do these things as well.”