Young Warriors Find Strength at XTERRA Oak Mountain

Contributed by: Danielle Radden

Something happens to competitors in an off-road triathlon: They play.  The course is full of kids in adult bodies playing in the dirt.  You can see it in the smiles tinted a shade darker from dirty teeth, the sweat covered friends holding hands across the finish line, the bleeding scratches left unattended in favor of excited chatter about each triumph on the bike course.  Amidst this youthful spirit, the actual children of the group fit right in. An off-road triathlon provides opportunities for all ages to play together. The sport continues to attract younger and younger competitors.

While cheering and encouraging the exhausted but triumphant kid-like athletes nearing the finish line at XTERRA Oak Mountain, I met Jen Wolfe.  Jen was waiting for two special men in her life to finish the XTERRA Oak Mountain Sprint Tri – her sons James and Andrew.

Young Warriors. Photo: Jen Wolfe
James and Andrew Wolfe preparing to hop in the water for the XTERRA Oak Mountain Sprint Triathlon. Photo: Jen Wolfe

These boys ARE kids in an adult field of athletes and just like every other man and woman, they are having a blast playing in the dirt.  While the adult athletes are warriors living the emotions of a kid, these boys are kids finding the strength of warriors.

James (12) and Andrew (11) Wolfe suffered through a 10-hour road trip from Metamora, Illinois to Pelham, Alabama for their first off-road triathlon of the 2017 season.  

Young Warriors Photo: Jen Wolfe
Andrew and James in the transition area at XTERRA Oak Mountain. Photo: Jen Wolfe

The race itself was a battle against heat, rocks, and roots but the boys persevered and won with smiles and minimal damage. They agreed the best part of the course was the challenging bike leg.  The grueling sun sapping energy with every pedal stroke. The temperature steadily increasing as the day went on.  Neither James nor Andrew would give up though.  They found a weapon and energy reserve in the shade of the run. Both boys relished in their accomplishment at the finish line and the battle was celebrated with snacks and a trip to the misting tent.  

Young Warriors Photo: Jen Wolfe
The Wolfe brothers hanging out in the misting tent post race. Photo: Jen Wolfe

These little athletes fit right in with the smiles, laughter, and dirty, sweat streaked faces –  young warriors amidst the adults. But how did two young boys become a part of this off-road community so seamlessly – a community predominated by adults?

The triathlon bug bit these boys in 2013.  ‘Kid’ races and mini tri’s soon gave way to adult distance road triathlons.  The boys thrived on endurance rather than speed.  James completed Half Ironman distance races in 2015 soon joined by Andrew in 2016.  When the boys discovered XTERRA they knew they had found their racing home.  

Young Warriors Photo: XTERRA
Andrew Wolfe exiting the water after a 750m swim. Photo: XTERRA

The boys are so passionate about off-road that they have worked to start a local triathlon introducing families to the sport and raising money for local groups supporting swimming and mountain biking.  These mini races now include a 2 and 4 mile mountain bike course allowing anyone to taste the thrill of trail riding.

“We are drawn to [off-road] triathlons because of the personal challenges, friendly competition, and incredible support of all the athletes, spectators, and volunteers.  The positive atmosphere has been unlike any other sport we’ve encountered.  XTERRA and its people exemplify all these attributes with a splash of rocks, cliffs, trees, and dirt thrown in for fun.” – Jen Wolfe, mother of Andrew and James

The next battle for these young warriors will be at XTERRA Illinois Wilds on June 11th. Victory will be found while playing in the dirt alongside all the other ‘kids’ who happen to be adults.

Young Warriors Photo: Jen Wolfe
Even the adults are impressed with their young competitors. Photo: Jen Wolfe




Will Kelsay

Will Kelsay is one of the top cross triathletes in the world with a 10 year career spanning 5 continents competing in more than 18 countries. He has 20 career wins and more than 70 top 5 finishes. Anyone who has met him knows his passion for the sport is only overshadowed by his huge smile & his appetite for fun.

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