Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Youth and Junior Triathlon Racing

Peaks Coaching Group Youth Junior Triathlon Racing Nathan LaFrance

Do you know a kid or teenager who wants to try a triathlon? Maybe that’s you! Maybe you’ve done a few races and want to get more involved in the sport. Youth and junior triathletes represent one of the largest growing segments in the sport of triathlon, and there are more and more opportunities for races age-appropriate in distance and focus for this group of athletes. Youth and juniors with more experience who wish to compete at a higher level have additional opportunities to race a variety of triathlon formats, including ITU-style draft-legal racing.

Before deciding which races to consider for next season, take time to review your age and experience, and then look for races with swim, bike, and run distances that match your age and ability (see the table below).

Recommended Competition Distances for Youth and Juniors
Racing Age* Category Swim Distance Bike Distance Run Distance
7-8 Youth 50-100m** 2k 1k
9-10 Youth 100m** 3k 1k
11-12 Youth 200m** 5-7k 2k
13-15 Youth 200-400m 8-10k 2-3k
16-19 Junior 400-750m 15-20k 5k
13-15 Youth Elite*** 400m 10k 2.5k
16-19 Youth Elite*** 750m 20k 5k
*Racing age is determined as of December 31 of the year in which the event takes place.
** Pool swim recommended.
***Youth elite and junior elite races are draft-legal, are typically staged on multi-lap closed courses, and are officiated using International Triathlon Union competition rules.

Additionally, look for races with multiple breakdowns of the younger age groups (not just “under 19”). This is a good indicator that the race director is making appropriate considerations for younger athletes.

Junior talent identification races are great places for teenage triathletes to find races with a higher number of other teens and conditions suitable for emerging athletes. These races are non-draft legal format and have been identified by USAT Regional Athlete Development Coordinators (RADCs) as particularly “junior friendly.”  

If you’re interested in draft-legal racing, seek out opportunities to learn group riding skills prior to your first race. It’s important for anyone racing in this style of triathlon to have good riding skills and be comfortable in group riding situations. You can gain these skills in a variety of ways: through local cycling club group rides, USAT regional development camps, and USA Cycling camps, or with the help of a coach. Once you feel comfortable with fast-moving pelotons, you may be ready to try USA Triathlon’s F1 races, which are introductory draft-legal triathlons for athletes ages 12-17 that are designed to give teens the opportunity to try out this type of race.

Youth and junior elite cup races are ITU-style draft-legal races where the best of the country’s young triathletes compete for points toward youth and junior elite national rankings. These races are for those young athletes who have the experience and conditioning to handle the country’s highest level of competition. USA Triathlon’s Youth Elite and Junior Elite National Championship is the culmination of the Elite Cup Series for youth and junior triathletes.

Triathlon has a lot to offer its youth and junior participants. Selecting races that are appropriate to both your age and experience will keep it fun and encourage you to get even more involved in this great sport!

Photo: PCG junior triathlete Nathan LaFrance

Peaks Coaching Group Coach Karen Mackin
Karen Mackin is a USA Cycling Level 2 power certified coach, a USA Triathlon Level 2 junior certified coach, a USA Track and Field Level 1 coach, an AFAA certified personal trainer, and a PCG elite coach. She and her fellow PCG coaches create custom training plans for all levels of athletes. Karen can be contacted directly through or