The race official’s pointer finger flexed and closed around the air horn’s trigger. I silently prayed that I would make it through the swim. A shrill blast pierced the air and Julianna and Colin dove into the water. They were in a group of 20-odd eight and nine-year olds doing the Alberta Challenge Kids Of Steel Triathlon at Miquelon Lake. We had been told that they would be swimming a distance of 100m in chest-deep water parallel to the shore, but moments before the race the course was changed and now they would swim to a buoy 50m from shore and then back. I knew that they were physically capable of swimming that distance, but the water was cold and the buoy seemed so far off. As the lake bottom dropped under their feet, three kids turned back, unable to keep themselves afloat. A rescue boat and canoe sat about 30 feet out, watching for stragglers. As long as the kids didn’t get into the boat, they could continue the race. The last swimmer of the pack was slowing, then turned onto his back for a break, then finally looked up to find the boat alongside him. He grabbed onto the edge and a chorus of “You can do it! Don’t give up!” swelled from the shore. I could hear him crying, desperate to climb in, to be pulled in. The rescuers words were lost in the space between beach and boat, but finally the sobbing subsided and his little fingers let go of the boat. A spontaneous cheer rose from the crowd and we watched as the little head bobbed slowly to the buoy, disappeared, then reappeared, barely moving. Taken with the struggling swimmer, I had completely lost track of Julianna and Colin until I heard Blair and Joel clap and cheer. I readjusted my gaze to see two small heads side by side, perfectly in sync. They were about 5th and 6th from the back of the pack, and they were together. The realization that one must have paced to stay with the other hit me, and tears stung my eyes as they came out of the water, strides matching, smiles on their faces. Cheeks wet, I joined the cheering crowd, the chorus steadily building as the last little swimmer came in, crying with what I think was a mix of elation and exhaustion. It seemed that we couldn’t cheer or clap any louder as he stumbled up the beach. I have no idea whose time was the best that day. But I know who won my heart.