Inside JCPRD: New award celebrates the Team Cecilia Spirit of Multisport

Cecilia Niemann (left), a young triathlete from Overland Park with cerebral palsy, participated in at least JCPRD three triathlons between 2013 and 2019. A new award will be presented in her honor for the first time at the Shawnee Mission Triathlon & Duathlon on July 10.

By David Markham

When the 38th annual Shawnee Mission Triathlon & Duathlon takes place on July 10, it will include the first-ever presentation of the Team Cecilia Spirit of Multisport Award.

The new award is named after Cecilia Niemann, a young triathlete from Overland Park with cerebral palsy ,who participated in at least three Shawnee Mission traithlons between 2013 and 2019, and who passed away in late January of this year, just two weeks before her 18th birthday.

“The award is a way to honor Cecilia Niemann, who was a staple of the KC triathlon community,” said Race Director Katy Renner. “Being that the Shawnee Mission Tri was the first multisport event that Team Cecilia competed in, our committee thought it was fitting to honor her in this way. It’s a great way to keep her memory alive.”

The new award “seeks to recognize individuals who exemplify the positive spirit of the sport through acts of sportsmanship, leadership, and their efforts to grow a more diverse and inclusive multisport field.”

“Cecilia was a girl with an infectious smile and bright eyes that drew everyone in,” said her mother, Debbie Niemann. “Despite having cerebral palsy which impacted her physical and verbal abilities, as well as caused significant health challenges, she lived an active, adventurous, and full life. She refused to be defined by what she could not do, but rather spent her life making her family, friends, and community aware of existing barriers for those with different abilities in order to promote change and inclusion for all.

“For Cecilia, triathlon was where she wasn’t the little girl in a wheelchair that everyone pitied, but a girl who despite her challenges, persevered with a determination respected (and loudly cheered) by fellow athletes,” she added. “She inspired many to enter the sport and encouraged everyone to have fun and support one another. In addition, she made the triathlon community aware that even those with few words and different abilities desire to be included, talked to, acknowledged, and to belong.”

While Cecilia finished countless road races, half marathons, marathons, and triathlons (including the previously offered JCPRD Women’s Triathlon), the first triathlon she attended was the Shawnee Mission Triathlon & Duathlon in 2013.

“This was the beginning of an era thanks to JCPRD, and it broke down so many barriers in the community for her and others when it came to racing,” Debbie said. “They set the stage for Team Cecilia to enjoy years of being welcomed, and often recruited to participate in most of the area’s triathlons. Triathlon is a sport unlike any other. Triathletes come in all shapes, sizes, speeds, strengths, abilities, and experiences. It is one of the most welcoming – to newbies, oldies, youth, experienced, pros, and those with challenges – as few enter it as masters at all three disciplines (swim, bike, run). Cecilia’s favorite discipline was definitely the bike, and SMP Tri was one of her most enjoyed due to the steep downhills – the faster, the better!”

Wellness Manager Jill Leiker vividly recalls working with Cecilia’s family to make that 2013 event a reality for the athlete.

“I remember every meeting, every visit to the park prior to event day and every challenge we met to include Cecelia,” she said. “We were determined to give this experience to her. What we could never have imagined was the impact it had on us and her fellow athletes. Time stopped when she left that morning on the swim.”

“Cecilia was not only an athlete but a ray of light in a sometimes dark world,” Renner said. “We are honored to carry on her legacy with the Team Cecilia Spirit of Multisport Award.”

Nominations for the inaugural award can be submitted until June 30 using the form available here. From the applicants, the Shawnee Mission Triathlon & Duathlon Committee will select one annual award winner and up to two honorable mentions. Nominees do not have to be current or past participants in the Shawnee Mission Triathlon & Duathlon.

As listed in the eligibility requirements, nominees should display the following characteristics, supported by examples within the application.

“Nominee must encompass principles of good sportsmanship with regard to other competitors and persons involved in the Kansas City multisport community such as: dependability, integrity, character, inclusivity, and respect. Nominee must demonstrate exceptional involvement and leadership in the Kansas City multisport community with regard to furthering diversity and inclusion in the sport. The Nominee must exemplify an unwavering passion for the multisport lifestyle.”

Participation in the 2022 Shawnee Mission Triathlon & Duathlon is limited to 750 athletes and is expected to fill by the end of June. Register now to reserve your space.

Interest and registrations are running high for this year’s Shawnee Mission Triathlon & Duathlon coming up on July 10.

“Last year, we were up 25-40% throughout the year and sold out two days before the race,” Renner said. “This year, we’re up 5% over last year with hopes to sell out before the end of June. Register NOW to secure your spot.”

As the longest running event in the metro area, this event offers course options for athletes ranging in experience from first-timer to the seasoned veteran: Super Sprint Triathlon, Short Course Triathlon, Long Course Triathlon, and Olympic Triathlon and Duathlon. The 2022 Shawnee Mission Triathlon & Duathlon is a USA Triathlon sanctioned event. The triathlon portion of the event has again been designated by the USA Triathlon Paratriathlon Committee as Paratriathlon Friendly.

“We’ve got something for everyone ages 11 to infinity,” Renner added.

The Shawnee Mission Triathlon & Duathlon is excited to welcome back Team Fidelis as its charity partner/beneficiary. Team Fidelis is dedicated to preventing suicide among military service members, veterans, and families by raising awareness, providing a bridge of hope, and building camaraderie.

The Triathlon Olympic Course consists of a 1,500-meter swim, followed by a 27-mile bike, and a 6.2-mile run. For individuals, the cost is $125 until June 30, then increases to $130 per person through race day, if space is available. For two- or three-person teams, the cost is $150 until June 30, and then $160 through race day. The Triathlon Long Course consists of a 1,000-meter swim, followed by an 18-mile bike, and a 4.5-mile run. For individuals, the cost is $110 until June 30, then increases to $120 per person through race day. For two- or three-person teams, the cost is $140 until June 30, and $150 through race day. The Triathlon Short Course consists of a 500-meter swim, followed by a 9-mile bike, and a 3.1-mile run. For individuals, the cost is $100 until June 30, then increases to $105 through race day. The cost for two- or three-person teams is $130 until June 30, and then $135 through race day. The Triathlon Super Sprint Course consists of a 200-meter swim, followed by a 4.5-mile bike, and a 2.25-mile run. For individuals, the cost is $65 until June 30, and $70 through race day. For two- and three-person teams, the cost is $100 until June 30, and $110 through race day. The Duathlon consists of a 3.1-mile run, followed by a 13.5-mile bike, and another 3.1-mile run. The cost through June 30 is $95 per individual or $125 per two- or three-person team, and then $105 per individual or $135 per team through race day.

Each participant will receive a T-shirt and a finisher’s medal. Individual prizes will be awarded to the top three male, female, and team overall finishers in each of the courses. Individual awards will be presented to the top three athletes of each age division.

Shawnee Mission Park is located at 7900 Renner Road, Shawnee and Lenexa. Participation will be limited to the first 750 entries. As a result of this event, Shawnee Mission Park will not open for public use until noon on this date.

To register, click here. Online registrations will end at midnight on July 9. Late registrations will be accepted at packet pickup on July 8 at BikeStop, located at 13157 State Line Road, Kansas City, Mo., and on July 9 at the Shawnee Mission Park Administration Building, 7900 Renner Road, Shawnee and Lenexa.