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Compassion aplenty at St. Petersburg's Meek & Mighty Triathlon

ST. PETERSBURG — Anxiety rose as gradually as the sun Saturday for the parents of 9-year-old Jenna Bold, who discovered her purple Trek bike broken beyond immediate repair upon arriving at the Meek & Mighty Triathlon.

Compassion, however, caught up with them at the transition area.

Upon finding the derailleur dangling beside the rear wheel of Jenna's bike, James and Kristin Bold approached the race announcer, who made a public plea for a spare bike to those arriving at the waterfront. Michelle Petrillo, whose four kids were competing, heard it.

"I looked back at (Jenna), and she was all teary-eyed," said Petrillo, whose oldest child was less than a half-hour from starting.

"I was like, 'Okay, I've got a bike in my garage, I'm going to go get it.' "

So Petrillo hopped on her bike and pedaled the half-mile or so to her house, returning with a purple bike Jenna's size.

A fourth-grader at Tampa's Family of Christ Christian School, Jenna finished the short course (100-yard swim, 3.6-mile bike ride, half-mile run) in 34 minutes, 7 seconds.

Kristin's parting words to Petrillo:

"You're awesome."

Fitter by the dozen: Among the hundreds of sets of parents who converged near Vinoy Park were South Florida residents David and Lyette Reback, whose everyday life might aptly be described as a triathlon.

The parents of 12 children (including three adopted kids) ranging in ages from 1 to 15, the Rebacks watched five of them compete. David navigated the course while pushing a six-child stroller.

A triathlete, David is the brother of Laura Bennett, who placed fourth in the women's triathlon at the 2008 Olympics for the United States.

The Mightiest: Rachel Mann, 14, of Homer Glen, Ill., posted the fastest overall time on the long course (200-yard swim, 5.6-mile bike, 1-mile run) reserved for ages 11 and up.

Mann, who placed third in her age group at last summer's USA Triathlon Junior Elite Cup in California, finished in 26 minutes, 45 seconds. The top male finisher was Kevin Smith, 15, of Clearwater (27:11).

Parker Sanderson, 10, of St. Petersburg, a fourth-grader at Lutheran Church of the Cross and Day School, posted the best overall time on the short course (21:23) reserved for ages 7-10.

The oldest competitor was part-time St. Petersburg resident Gene Lichter, an 85-year-old World War II veteran who completed the long course in 1 hour, 11 minutes, 50 seconds.

A retired food broker who spends part of the year in San Antonio, Texas, Lichter was competing in his second Meek & Mighty.

"I read in the paper about these older people competing in this thing, and I said to my daughter, 'I can do that,' " Lichter said at the finish line.

"She said, 'I don't know,' and I said, 'Well, I'm gonna do it.' "

Joey Knight can be reached at

27th St. Anthony's Triathlon

What: Olympic-distance event featuring some of the world's top professionals and more than 4,000 individuals and 150 relay teams from 48 states, 18 countries and six U.S. territories.

When/where: 6:50 a.m. today;
Straub Park/Vinoy Park, St. Petersburg

Distance: 1.5-kilometer (0.9-mile) swim; 40K (24.8-mile) bike; 10K (6.2-mile) run


On the Web

Experience the Meek & Mighty Triathlon in pictures at

Compassion aplenty at St. Petersburg's Meek & Mighty Triathlon 04/24/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 8, 2011 1:22pm]
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