On a beautiful sunny evening, approximately 20 kids wearing bathing suits and swimming caps tear into Lake Linganore, swim feverishly and then bound out of the water.
There is no game of Marco Polo, no diving to touch the bottom, no leisurely back strokes. These kids, ranging in age from 7 to 15, are triathletes in training, members of the Mini Cow Tri Club.
The club was formed in 2008 by Mount Airy residents Brian and Christy Lausch.
Christy Lausch, a former triathlete, said the couple wanted to introduce their kids to triathlons. In doing so, they started a little training group with neighborhood kids.
It grew from there and now has 51 team members ages 7 to 18 participating at different levels and in different age groups.
Christy Lausch develops and trains the athletes while Brian Lausch deals with logistics and managing races and events, including the Nottingham Kids Triathlon, which will take place Aug. 23 in Mount Airy.
Christy Lausch said that the team has seen tremendous growth in the past few years. As the number of athletes has grown, new assistant coaches have been brought on board.
Among them is Kevin Levi–Goerlich, 20, who competed in IRONMAN Lake Placid on July 27 and took first place in his age group, earning him a spot in the IRONMAN World Championships in Hawaii in October. Levi-Goerlich, who is entering his senior year at the University of Maryland, said his goal going into the IRONMAN Lake Placid — a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run — was simply to finish. Earning a spot at the World Championships was a bonus.
"Hawaii will be my first time racing in a world championship kind of event," he said with a grin. "It's such a stacked field that I think it's a long shot to win, but that's not going to stop me from trying."
Levi-Goerlich, who is vice-president of a club triathlon team at the University of Maryland, said he met Brian and Christy Lausch a few years ago when Mini Cow Tri Club athletes attended a clinic and worked with University of Maryland triathletes.
"One of the great things Mini Cow does is introduce kids to the multisport lifestyle. It's one thing to say, 'I do triathlons.' and another to identify as a triathlete," Levi-Goerlich said. "The coaching staff here is phenomenal, they provide such a safe structured environment where the kids can really learn and develop skills that translate from triathlons to outside life."
Being a triathlete is more than just playing a sport, according to Levi-Goerlich, it's a lifestyle.
"I am a firm believer that hard work results in progress and progress results in self-improvement," he said. "Triathlon has really helped me learn a lot about myself, and I try to be the best person I can be on and off the course."
In addition to Levi-Goerlich, Christy Lausch said Mini Cow's new assistant coaches include Jake Fox, Frank Fitzpatrick and Leslie Knibb — all USA Triathlon certified coaches.
Sixteen Mini Cow Tri Club athletes were scheduled to compete in the 2014 USA Triathlon Youth and Junior National Championships on Aug. 2 and 3 in West Chester, Ohio.
Among them was Sydney O'Clery, 9, who has been training with the MCTC for three years. She finished in the top 10 in last year's competition.
The Mount Airy Elementary School student said she likes the variety that triathlons offer.
"Triathlon includes all my favorite sports, and I like that you get to concentrate on more things and don't get bored," said the fourth-grader.
She said wants to go to a college that has a triathlon team so that she can continue competing. Sydney also participates in cross country, winter and summer swim teams, and said she likes to snowboard.
Her brother, Blake, 12, is on the team and was also among those competing at nationals in Ohio.
Doug O'Clery said that he is happy that both his kids have found something that will provide a lifetime of exercise benefits.
"I grew up playing ball sports, so multisport is a little foreign to me," he said and laughed, "but we're thrilled that they've found something they can both enjoy. They're very energetic; we can't keep them still."
Christy and Brian Lausch's daughter, Anna, 14, has been learning multisport since she was 4 and seriously training for triathlons since she was 12.
She and fellow club members Page Lester and Jack Knibb qualified to compete as Elite racers at the national meet. The Youth Elite race for ages 13 to 15 includes a 375-meter swim, 10-kilometer bike ride and 2.5k run. Anna was the only member of the club to qualify last year.
"I like that there's not a lot of people; it's a unique sport," Anna said. "I make a lot of friends traveling around the country to compete. When you find people who like the same things you do, it's easy to build a strong connection. It's a lot of fun."
Anna, who will be a freshman at South Carroll High School in the fall, said she plans to compete in cross country and track in high school.
And finally, why cows?
Brian and Christy Lausch came up with the team name because "cows are fun" and they said they wanted to pay homage to the rural countryside where the team was founded and continues to train.