RockSteady teams with Auburn Parks, Arts and Rec to introduce youth to triathlon

Two RockSteady Youth Triathlon club members lead the pack during the biking portion of a race. - Photo courtesy John Tacke
Two RockSteady Youth Triathlon club members lead the pack during the biking portion of a race.
— image credit: Photo courtesy John Tacke

When John Tacke’s daughters first expressed an interest in competing in triathlons, the pickings in the Northwest were slim.

Realizing that any foray into the sport – a grueling mix of long distance running, open water swimming and biking – would require a fair amount of coaching, Tacke set about finding a place for his daughters to begin training.

“We started looking around for junior teams in the area to get them started and developed,” Tacke said. “There was not even one in the whole Northwest region.”

So like any good parent, he provided the opportunity by starting the RockSteady Junior Triathlon Club for ages 13 to 19.

“We started talking with USA Triathlon, and we launched a team last year with 15 kids total,” said Tacke, who is a swimming coach with the King County Aquatic Club. “We found some coaches who had some expertise in the different aspects and had them share that knowledge.”

RockSteady kicked off for its second season as a club last Saturday at the Auburn Valley YMCA, where they train.

Membership has increased to 20 this season. Tacke continues to raise awareness of the sport throughout the area through a partnership with the Auburn Parks, Arts and Recreation Department.

“We’re hoping they can help promote the team in exchange for us running camps or clinics,” Tacke said.

Last season Tacke and the other RockSteady coaches dived head first into the mix, taking many athletes who had never competed in a triathlon and prepping them for the USA Triathlon Youth and Junior Elite National Championship qualifying event at Monroe.

“There are three races where kids can qualify for the nationals,” Tacke said. “The big one is in Monroe. And there would always be more kids from out of the area than Washington kids. We sent 13 to Monroe last year. A lot of (the kids from last year) were first-time triathletes, and to take a group of kids and watch them become pretty skilled was pretty fun.”

Now it’s time to grow the club, Tacke said.

In addition to partnering with the Auburn Parks, Arts and Rec – which includes possibly opening an indoor multi-rider cycling training center in Auburn that would be open to the public – Tacke and RockSteady are seeking sponsors to help fund the nonprofit club and defray the costs for club members.

“The biggest challenge is the upfront expense,” he said. “They need a road bike and a wet suit, and that can put them back about $1,500 to $1,600. We’re hoping to build up an inventory of bikes and wet suits to help get the kids started.”

And for Tacke, it’s all about getting young athletes a taste of the triathlon.

“It’s a sport that is just a lot of fun,” he said. “It builds a lot of passion in the kids once they start. They work real hard, train real hard, and it’s a challenging sport.”

For more information, visit


What is a triathlon?

Believed to have originated in France in the 1920s, the first modern version of the event – featuring swimming, biking and running – was held in Mission Bay, San Diego in 1974.

The standard distances for the triathlon are a 1.5-kilometer swim in open water, transitioning to a 20-kilometer bike ride and then a 10-kilometer run. Transitions include gear and shoe changes, with athletes changing out of a wet suit and into biking attire and then from biking into running gear.

For Junior Elite triathletes, ages 13-15, the distances are a 750-meter run, a 20-kilometer bike ride and a 5-kilometer run.

For Youth Elite, ages 13-15. it’s a 375-meter swim, a 10-kilometer bike ride and a 2.5-kilometer run..


We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

Read the Oct 21
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates