WOONSOCKET – The time for training is almost over and local kids will get to test their fitness when the Autunmfest Kids Challenge gets under way at the World War II Veterans Memorial State Park during the city’s Columbus Day weekend festival on Saturday, Oct. 12.
Once again this year, Nancy Phillips, a Woonsocket School Department physical education teacher, and Call Publisher Mary Lynn Bosiak will be running the kid-level, mini-triathlon with the help of several volunteers and sponsors such as Simon Chevrolet and the Blackstone River Federal Credit Union at Monument Square.
As of Wednesday, Phillips, the physical education teacher for both Bernon Heights Elementary and Leo A. Savoie Elementary schools, had almost 100 competitors signed up from local schools, with more expected to register on race day following the Autumnfest opening ceremonies.
The weather the day of the competition is always a determining factor in how many kids show up, and thus far, Phillips said, weather projections are good for Saturday.
“From what I am hearing from Arthur Cadoret on WOON, the weather will be in the 60s and perfect for the Autumnfest Kids Challenge,” she said.
The mini-tri starts out on the beach with a run-crawl through an obstacle course, and then makes it way out to East School Street for a half-mile run. The competitors return to the entrance of the park for a transition to bicycles, and there must don and strap on their helmets with the help of family members or guardians before taking off on the half-mile bike ride on the same East School Street course.
The success of the addition of the Wee Race last year has brought back that modified competition, all on the beach for two age groups, 3 and 4, and 5 and 6, Phillips said.
The small competitors go through the obstacle course and then a little run before hitting the finish line and fame.
“We had the Wee Race last year and it was wonderful,” Phillips said. “To have these kids ages 3 and 4 and 5 and 6 competing was just wonderful,” she said.
The Wee Race begins the day’s competition, with the 3- and 4-year-olds starting at 11:05 a.m., followed by the 5- and 6-year olds at 11:15.
The full competition distances begin with the 7- to 9-year olds at 11:30 and will be followed by the 10-, 11-, and 12-year old race at noon, with the 13-, 14- and 15-year old race at 12:30 p.m.
An awards ceremony will follow the end of the last race, and the competitors will take home their race T-shirts and a pin or medallion for their participation. Trophies will also be awarded for place winners, Phillips said.
Joining Phillips and Bosiak at the registration table will be Kathy Lanctot once again this year, and the volunteers will also include Wayne Lima from the Kings Row band, and a former Kids Challenge competitor, Christopher Pawlina, who always works the East School Street turnaround point.
“Christopher enjoyed the race as a child so much he comes back each year to continue to help,” Phillips said.
The event is a challenging one, and Phillips said she always tells the kids at school they should practice a bit and be ready to run a half-mile when race day comes. “Some say `Oh, Mrs. Phillips, that’s easy,’ but then they find it to be more challenging than they expected,” she said.
“It is a half-mile run and a half-mile bike race,” she said of the challenges the competitors will have to overcome following their short scramble across the beach sand.
When the race is over, everyone is smiling, even after all their work, and that is what keeps Phillips involved each year.
“I enjoy seeing all children I know from school in the race and it’s always a family event,” she said. “It can be exhausting but it is also fun.”
Race fees are $1 for Wee Race competitors and $5 for the Kids Triathlon. Race forms are available at The Call, local schools, Simon Chevrolet and City Hall. For more information, call 765-4327. All participants must be registered 30 minutes before the start of their race. Online registration is available at www.autumnfest.org , www.woonsocketcall.com  or www.pawtuckettimes.com . Proceeds benefit Autunmfest.