12-year-old Kaytlynn Welsch and her sister, 10-year-old Heather have now gained the title as the two fastest and youngest endurance runners in the country.
In less than 2 years, the sisters have both competed in over 160 endurance races, prompting both awe and concern among fellow athletes and bystanders.
Last August, the sisters competed in a grueling 13-mile XTerra cross country race in Texas. Kaytlynn won first place in the women’s division, while sister Heather finished a close third.
“For some reason, running is really fun, even though it hurts sometimes,” Kaytlynn told the Times. “I enjoy it. I can go on and on without getting tired. It makes a purpose in my life.”
Despite their amazing feats, the two girls have elicited worried responses from a number of people who fear that they are putting too much strain on their young bodies. Fellow athletes worry about the sisters’ long-term health, although their personal doctors currently find no reasons for concern.
“In general, kids should stick to kids distances and then race at adult distances when they are adults,” Dr. Douglas Hiller, the chief medical officer for the triathlon at the Olympics explained. “[The distances run by the Welsches] sounds excessive. But if these kids feel it’s a mission to do this and they aren’t having adverse effects, I guess it’s OK.”
So how do the parents feel about the girls’ ambitions?
“If the girls wanted to quit, “that’d be O.K.,” mom Niki Welsch said.
However, dad Rodney Welsch feels differently. “Kaytlynn has too much talent to quit,” he said. “Kaytlynn said she wanted to quit the triathlon, and I said, ‘You’re not quitting, you need to stay with it.’ Two months later, after she gets a new bike, she says, ‘I love the triathlon now.'”