- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 2, 2008

Amfernee Dargan, 12, fell off his bike Friday halfway through the Kids Triathlon in the District.

He looked up to see paramedics on their way to help.

Instead, he lifted his heavy frame off the ground and got back on his bike, telling coaches he was OK.

Amfernee was not about to give up — especially since last year when he was unable to even compete in the 5K biking segment of the race.

He was just one of many new triathletes who completed the second annual Kids Triathlon, sponsored by the local nonprofit group Achieve! The race was held this year at Kenilworth Recreation Center.

The program is designed to “break the chain of obesity” by teaching children the importance of nutrition and exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle, said organization co-founder Chuck Brodsky.

Before the race, Amfernee waited nervously for his chance to start: “I’m nervous but very confident that I might win, at least be in a good place.” Last year he learned how to swim and this year he learned how to ride a bike.

The program also has helped him socialize with other children and to be more accepting of himself, his mother said.

Her son didn’t finish at the front of the pack, but Faith Dargan agreed that he finished “in a good place.”

“It’s not about winning; it’s about finishing. I feel so good. I feel better than if he’d come in first. It’s one of the best lessons in life, being the size that he is, that he can do anything,” she said.

Amfernee crossed the finish line strong with the large crowd of supporters, volunteers, athletes and coaches screaming and shaking noisemakers. His coaches and friends all congratulated him.

Many young athletes pushed themselves to the limit during the event, but seemed more concerned about cheering for each other than for themselves. Many who had already finished the race ran back onto the track to jog next to their friends, encouraging them all the way to the finish line.

Coach Tony Newlon said the youths seemed “lackadaisical” when they started training six weeks ago.

Now, “they’ve taken away another excuse,” he said.

“To set a goal and to reach that goal when at first they didn’t think it was possible” is the biggest accomplishment of the program, Mr. Newlon said.

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