You are here

Tweens in Adult Competitions Raise Controversy


The Welsch sisters, 10-year-Heather and 12-year-old Kaytlynn, have competed in more than 160 endurance events in less then two years, combined. The Texas natives have participated in triathlons, where they typically swim 500 meters, cycle 13 miles and end with a 3.1-mile run. Some were children’s races, but many were adult competitions, and that didn't stop the mini athletes from dominating.

They prefer trail runs to road races because “All you see is house, house, lamp post, lamp post,” complained Kaytlynn to The New York Times when talking about events held in urban sprawl. For them, running trails along rivers and ravines are the most fun.

PLUS: Experts Say Skip Pee Wee Sports and Stick to the Playground

A number of people however, don’t believe the petite pair's participation in endurance events is all about fun and games. While the girls’ father, Rodney Welsch, has been assured by doctors that his daughters are not in danger, others are still concerned that they risk damaging their long-term health and prospects for future success.

Dr. Douglas Hiller, who has been the chief medical officer for the triathlon at the Olympics, told the Times, “In general, kids should stick to kids distances and then race at adult distances when they are adults. But if these kids feel it's a mission to do this and they aren't having adverse effects, I guess it's OK."

According to her parents, running is more safe for Kaytlynn, a 4-foot-7 middle schooler, than a contact sport like soccer or basketball. Aside from the physical challenges of a team sport, Kaytlynn used to be teased for her small size, called a midget, or leprechaun when she wore green. 

PLUS: Do Girls Get Enough Exercise?

While the girls have exceptional race records, in order to continue their athletic pursuits they are also expected to maintain high grades in school. Seventh-grader Kaytlynn and fifth-grader Heather are required to keep at least a 93 average in all subjects.

When it comes to quitting, the girls’ parents seem to have different opinions. Their mom, Niki Welsch, says quitting would be okay, but their dad, Rodney, believes, "Kaytlynn has too much talent to quit--besides, the girls say one thing one day and another thing the next.”

Do you think kids should compete with adults or is that going too far? Leave a comment.