More than 200 participate in Father's Day race to benefit Meals on Wheels

When Ben Freed was in the fourth grade, he ran a 15-minute mile. His father took him to train at a local community college. A few years later, Freed's grandfather gave him his first real road bike.

As Freed competed during Sunday's annual Meals on Wheels Father's Day Sprint Triathlon/Duathlon, he thought of both his father and grandfather's influence. Freed, now 20, finished first in the triathlon, taking just more than an hour to complete a 400-meter swim, 14-mile bike ride and 3-mile run.

"It's what I asked him for for Father's Day," said his dad, Eric Freed. "And he delivered."

More than 200 participated in the event, held at the South Carroll Swim Club to benefit Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland.

The charity, which provides food for elderly and other homebound people, has been involved in the Father's Day tradition for four years. Last year's race raised enough money to serve 3,300 meals, said Stephanie Archer-Smith, the group's executive director. They were hoping to top that this year.

"We thought this would be a good opportunity to raise awareness of our mission in the Carroll County area," Archer-Smith said. "Often times, elderly people experience limitations that keep them from being out in the community. As young, healthy people, we don't always think about what it's like to be aging and homebound."

Dallas Harrell, 50, said the good cause is the primary reason he did the duathlon — a 1.8-mile run, 14-mile bike ride and 3-mile run — Sunday morning.

"We have to take care of our seniors," Harrell said. "What better way to spend Father's Day."

Fifteen father-son or father-daughter teams did the race together as a relay, race director Leslie Puzio said. In the Stott family, dad Roger did the biking portion of the triathlon, while his 15-year-old daughter Mia ran and 13-year-old daughter Ama swam.

"It's fun to come together, have a goal and accomplish it as a team," Roger Stott said.

Family members kept each motivated as they raced their way up and down the Carroll County hills.

Doug O'Clery did the duathlon with his 12-year-old daughter, Sydney, while his 14-year-old son, Blake, did the triathlon.

"I kept thinking that I've got to get back because she's waiting for me," O'Clery said. "That kept me going on those big hills."

Many other children cheered on their parents from the sidelines, and proudly wore their parents' medals once they completed the race.

Rich Seitz, 35, said seeing his two sons screaming and cheering him on at 7:15 a.m. "put a smile on my face."

For 30-year-old Jimmy Mudgett, completing the Father's Day triathlon was an "emotional" experience.

Moments after crossing the finish line, Mudgett hoisted his almost 2-year-old daughter in the air.

Mudgett said he's fortunate to be a father and a triathlete. After what happened Aug. 6, 2014, he said, he's lucky to even be alive.

The Woodbine resident was riding his bike on Route 31 when he was hit by a car going about 60 miles per hour. He broke his back and spent two weeks in the hospital.

"I'm lucky I'm even here," Mudgett said. "And on top of that, I can swim and bike and run."

Seeing the other father-daughter and father-son teams, Mudgett said he's hopeful he might participate in the annual race with his daughter or newborn son someday.

Watching their father compete "is going to teach our kids so much," said his wife, Ashley. "He's a great role model."

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