Athletes With Special Needs Prepare For Triathlon

BENTONVILLE (KFSM) -- Students with special needs from across Northwest Arkansas are hitting the course this month, preparing for their first ever triathlon race.

“They are happy no matter what. That is how we should approach challenges. That is how we should approach life,” said Alex Bornkessel, spokeswoman for the triathlon.

If you happened to have crossed path with these young athletes Saturday (aug. 13) morning, you were seeing upcoming TriFest athletes in training.

“She gets to swim, bike, and run, and get the exercise,” said Libby Schaller, the mother of an athlete. “And, other people are encouraging her.”

Many of the special needs athletes are on scholarship to participate in a TriFest 4 MS triathlon on Labor Day.

“She has made such amazing strides. We had no idea she would come this far, this fast,” said Melissa Brannon, the mother of an athlete.

Brannon said she never considered her daughter would be in a triathlon.

“She went from not wanting to put her face in the water, and now she is going under water and swimming,” Brannon said. “To be competing in a TriFest, we would have never dreamed for this to happen.”

Significant strides which encourage others as well.

“To watch these kids do the same thing, it just motivates you to do it even more,” said Deana Horn, a volunteer coach.

Schaller’s daughter, Emmy, was seen encouraging others as she raced.

“I cheer [my friend] on,” Emmy Schaller said. “She did a good job running.”

Something organizers encourage others to do as well.

“You need to be a part of something bigger than yourself,” Bornkessel said. “No matter what your challenge is, you can get to that starting line. And, we can help you get across the finish line.”

There is still time to sign up for the race. For more information on how you can participate, or volunteer, click here.