Four years ago this month, 12-year-old Adarius Jenkins drowned in a pond on Johns Island. As a result of that tragic accident, one of his cousins made a vow.

“I promised myself that my family was going to learn to swim,” says Latoyya Jones, now 40, of James Island.

She started with her kids. But the task was easier said than done for Latoyya herself. Her breakthrough came when she decided to join a training group called Tri It For Life in March, to prepare for the second annual She Tris triathlon at The I’On Club in Mount Pleasant.

“Twelve weeks ago I couldn’t swim,” she said after finishing Saturday’s triathlon. “It (swimming) was hard. I was scared and I still am scared. Every Tuesday, we had practice and I’d be a hot mess.”

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Lattoya Jones was congratulated by her sister, Shavon, after completing the She Tris triathlon at The I'On Club on Saturday. David Quick/Staff

But Latoyya made it. After competing the 200-yard swim on Saturday, she put her head in her hands and cried, looked over at her children, sister and mother, and gathered herself to get out of the pool.

Latoyya credited her mentors, Lisa Ashley and Sarah Ramsey, for their patient encouragement and coaching, especially during a mock triathlon a month ago.

“This journey has been such a blessing to me and my family. If it weren't for Lisa and Sarah, I'd still be afraid of what I just accomplished.”

One triathlon, 225 stories

Latoyya’s story is one of dozens about women overcoming obstacles to participate in a triathlon. The key word is 'participate' instead of 'compete.'

Long-time local triathlete and coach Angi Klick founded She Tris because she recognized there was a void in the Charleston area. Women of all ages, sizes, athletic abilities and backgrounds needed an opportunity to try competing in triathlon.

The sport can be intimidating, in part due to the super-fit, highly competitive athletes, along with the expensive bikes. And it’s really unfortunate because swimming, biking and running are an ideal cardiovascular mix of activities, which spreads the burden on joints.

Last year, I missed covering the inaugural event because it was held on the same weekend as the Floppin’ Flounder 5K, Lowcountry Splash and Folly Beach Wahine Classic, the latter being an all-female surfing contest that has become an annual surfing highlight.

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Unlike many competitive triathlons where athletes are more serious, participants in the She Tris event often smiled while competing. David Quick/Staff

One noticeable difference in the She Tris that I noticed from other triathlons I’ve either covered or participated in is the atmosphere. There was more smiling, hugging, kissing and yes, some crying. It was warmer.

This year’s She Tris sold out in January.

What's next?

Klick, who may have been the most calm director I’ve ever witnessed on race day, wanted to organize another triathlon in the area, but the bureaucratic hurdles – which have been getting higher in Charleston in recent years – makes it difficult.

But Klick is organizing a new event, sans bike.

The inaugural She Tris Aquathon, featuring a 250-yard swim and a 5K run, will be 7:30 a.m. Oct. 14 at Carnes Crossroads in Summerville.

Contact David Quick at 843-937-5516. Follow him on Twitter @DavidQuick.