LUMBERTON — It’s one thing to bike, or run or swim. It’s even harder doing all three in one event.
Haley George has competed in 12 triathlons, winning twice and placing in all but two.
Not bad for an 11-year-old.
George, a fifth-grader at Southeastern Academy in Lumberton, started competing in the multi-stage competitions when she was eight.
“I just love doing it,” said George, who won her first triathlon in her first attempt at the Tri-Warriors Youth Triathlon in Pembroke in August 2012. “I started training and I liked it so I’m going to keep doing it.”
In that same race, George’s two workout partners, Taylor Pait and Laci Rozier, finished right behind her in second and third. George considers Rozier and Pait to be two of her best friends.
“Laci told me about (triathlons) when we were swimming at her pool one day,” George said. “Us three have done it ever since and we push each other.”
As a 4-foot-6, 60-pounder, George’s competitive fire far exceeds her small stature. The passion to succeed comes from her dad, Willie.
“She’s got my mentality, she can’t stand losing and is very competitive,” said Willie, an assistant coach on the football team at Lumberton High School. “One thing I had to get on her about is when she loses she would make excuses, but now if you ask her who makes excuses she’ll say, ‘Losers’. She understands that now and when her workout partners train with her it takes her to a whole different level.”
While Willie and his wife, Tami, are essential to Haley’s success, along with Rozier and Pait, Willie said some other people have played a vital role as well.
Haley trained with the Lumberton cross country team under coach Janet Woodell, she swam with Lumberton’s swim team under coach Andre Braima and got direction from Jarod Britt, Lumberton’s strength and conditioning coach.
“They helped me a lot,” Haley said. “and Mike (Decinti) helped me train safe and stuff too.”
DeCinti, a member of the Tri-Warriors triathlon club in Robeson County, is grateful to play a part in Haley’s athletic journey.
“I got a call from her dad and he said she really enjoys the sport and wanted to put in more time so I was happy to help,” DeCinti said. “Triathlons take a lot of discipline. Even though kids love to swim, bike and run, to do them back-to-back with the distance required, you can’t wing it, you have to be prepared.”
DeCinti has since given Haley bike training equipment and has her on a workout regimen that suits her age and development.
“She’s still young and growing so I told them in beginning, I wouldn’t push her too much at her age because she’s still growing,” DeCinti said. “It’s really exciting to find someone so young that absorbs everything and is willing to learn. I feel blessed to work with her and see her results.”
While she loves playing other sports and plans on playing those in school, Haley said she’ll continue to train for the events she loves most.
“I’ve played soccer, basketball and softball, but I love running and doing triathlons,” she said.
Haley’s next event will be Sunday in Charlotte at the Ramblin’ Rose Triathlon, a five-race series hosted annually in five different locations in North Carolina. The competition features a 200-yard swim, eight miles of biking and two miles running.
Willie plans on being there to cheer her to the finish line.
“I’m very proud of her, she works very hard and if we miss a day she’s like, ‘Dad, dad, we’ve got to workout today,’” he said. “That’s what I love about her, she gets after it.”