LAKEWOOD RANCH — Eight-year-olds Anna Stock and Savannah DeCastro swim dozens of laps every day.
The Lakewood Ranch YMCA WaveRunners teammates spend at least four days a week in the pool, but for Anna and Savannah, that’s not always enough.
The two look for any opportunity to hit the water. And now, Anna and Savannah have taken their love of swimming and their competitive spirit to the next level — this time as triathletes.
Anna Stock always tries to make sure she’s the first one out of the water — no matter what it takes.
The St. Joseph Catholic School third-grader swims dozens of laps a day, so — aside from the waves chopping across her small frame — swimming 50 yards is nothing new for Anna. In fact, it’s her favorite part of the race.
“I like the swimming part because I’m the first one out of the water,” Anna said.
Last month, Anna had one of the best open-water swims of her life, which ultimately propelled her to a fourth-place finish in her age group at the IronKids Triathlon May 15 in Orlando.
Anna finished with a combined time of 12:33, which included a 50-yard swim, two-mile bike and a 500-yard run. Anna’s fourth-place finish qualified her for the IronKids National Championship Oct. 3 in St. Petersburg.
“I was surprised because I’ve never made it to nationals before,” Anna said. “It was my best time by a lot. I had a better swim, and I came in fourth place.”
Anna, who began swimming three years ago after following in the footsteps of her older sister, Emma, competed in her first triathlon two years ago after her mother, Heather, talked about getting the girls involved.
Anna spends about five days a week training for her triathlons with Emma and WaveRunners coach Jay Millard, picking one specific area to focus on each day.
“Anna is a real hard worker,” Millard said. “I think it comes down to being the middle child and that competitive (nature) comes out because this is something she can beat her sister in.
“She doesn’t give up,” he added. “She has the (proper) mindset, and she’ll fight through the pain. When it’s go time, she gets it done, and she’ll run through it.”
Anna just got a new 10-speed bike, which Millard said should help her as she prepares for her next triathlon, which will be a Youth Triathlon Series race Aug. 29 in Palm Harbor.
“You win triathlons with your bike and your endurance run,” Millard said. “It’s what you have — the determination and the (dedication). But it’s on the bike where triathlons are won, and that upgrade right there is going to be amazing for her.”
Prior to a couple months ago, the thought of competing in a triathlon had never crossed 8-year-old Savannah DeCastro’s mind.
But at the urging of her good friend, Chloe Millard, Savannah decided to give it a try, entering in her first triathlon last month in Brandon.
“It was a little hard on the run,” Savannah said of her first triathlon. “I really like them now (though). I get to compete with Chloe and sometimes if she’s next to me on the bike, then I get to talk to her.”
On June 13, the Willis Elementary School fourth-grader competed in her second triathlon — a Youth Triathlon Series race in Tampa — where she finished in second place. Savannah, who swims for the Lakewood Ranch YMCA WaveRunners, finished the race, which includes a 100-yard swim, a two-mile bike and a one-half mile run, in 18:38.3.
“I was really happy and surprised,” Savannah said. “It was the best I’ve ever done because I swam harder.”
Savannah began swimming a little more than a year ago after she decided she wanted to try a sport. Her mother suggested swimming, and Savannah quickly fell in love with the sport.
Now, Savannah, who enjoys freestyle the best, plans to add more triathlons to her list of activities, starting with another Youth Triathlon Series race in August.
Additionally, Savannah, who swims four days a week with the WaveRunners, is hoping to eventually begin training more for triathlons, specifically the one-half mile run.
“I like swimming because it’s fun, and I like biking because it’s fun too,” Savannah said. “Running is the hardest because I’m not very good at it.”
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].