A North Minneapolis resident, Elliot is a 14-year old triathlete. These athletes compete in triathlons, consisting of three phases, swimming, biking and running. He started swimming competitively at the age of seven, and began biking and running at age eight. He trains for swimming seven months out of the year’ and trains for track three months.
“I never really knew what I wanted to do,” Elliot said. “One week I wanted to be a swimmer, the next week I wanted to be a future runner. I continuously wanted to become a triathlete and began training.”
Elliot is part of the V3 triathlon program. Founded in 2007 by Erica Binger, the V3 Youth Triathlon Team is an innovative program using triathlon to incorporate leadership and character development to youth residing in North Minneapolis. It was founded as the Profound Sports Tri Team, but now does business as V3. The mission of V3 has three stages: Swim, Bike, Run, followed by providing character, community, commitment: life, learning and leadership. V3 empowers, equips, and supports youth ages 7-17 through their participation in triathlon training and racing.
Jonathan Jensen is a Performance Endurance Coach for OPTUM-Health Performance Training Center. He coaches ultra distance runners, bikers, swimmers and general health. He also sponsors Enoch at the facility. Enoch met Johnny in October of 2009.
“We met at a spin class in Maple Grove,” Jensen recalls. “Elliot was introduced to me by former Olympian Terry Alexander. Enoch caught his eye and they started training together.” Jensen said.
As a triathlete, Elliot has an extensive work out schedule. “He works with a few swimming groups for swimming specialties. He is a very gifted fast runner,” Jensen said. “We practice on 65% biking, 20-30% running and the rest swimming,” he said.
For practice, he averages about 30 miles a week, 4 miles most days and one day out of the week a long run coupled with short 400s and 800s sprints. He runs seven days a week. For spring track team competitions, Enoch runs the 400s, 800s, and the mile. His best mile time last year was 5:05.
Elliot is also home schooled. He gets up at six in the morning to swim, bike, then start school. He studies geometry, algebra, vocabulary, grammar and Spanish.
Elliot’s mother and father, Cheryline and Ali made the decision to home school Enoch in 2nd grade “He attended a few community schools; Harvest Prep, and New City. Around other students he kind of cuts up,” said his father. “As much time as I was spending in the school, I figured I would break even home schooling him,” Elliot said.
“Even in these efforts, Elliot has humble parents who acknowledge others who have contributed to the success of Elliot. Among those are coach DeAnna Smith, who is the coach for the V3 triathlon team, previously the swim coach for the YMCA. “I worked with Enoch as a swimmer around age eight. He is one of our more advanced athletes,” Smith said. “I mainly work with him on confidence and motivation to push himself.”
“It’s a different sport other than basketball and football. These kids are excelling and being given an opportunity to do well and fulfill their dreams as a professional athlete. There are very few, if any African American elite triathletes,” Smith said.
Smith is absolutely correct. According to USA Triathlon African Americans comprised of only 0.5 percent of the triathlon community. A number of factors contribute to this, such as cost. “For a competitive bike, you're looking at $2,000 to $8,000 range; wet suit $400-$800, running shoes $60-$100, travel, race entry fees which are $75-$200 and coaching is $150 up to $500. The sport is extremely expensive,” Jensen said.
Another determining factor is accessibility and exposure. “Triathletes are not something we have been exposed to,” Smith said. “How do they know about triathlon? We don’t have a lot of pools open for swimming lessons in North Minneapolis in comparison to the suburbs. It is financial, but it is more access. It also costs a lot to play basketball and football. It depends on what the parents are willing to put out for their children and what programs are available,” she said.
Despite these challenges, the V3 triathlon team won the national title at USA Triathlon's junior and youth national championships this past summer in San Diego, competing against 600 competitors.
The contributing efforts of Johnny Jenson, coach DeAnna Smith, his parents, and tutors, Elliot has the potential and intelligence to make a mark in the African American and triathlon community. “It all depends on what he decides to do,” said Jensen. “If he wants to do it as a hobby he will have success. Professionally or collegiate level the potential is there. He has the capability, the parental support and the drive.”