Father, daughter team take first in Iron Soldier triathlon relay

Lt. Col. John Harding runs the 5K challenge during the 6th Annual Iron Soldier Sprint Triathlon held here Oct. 7 at the Aquatics Training Center. Harding and his 10-year-old daughter Gabby won the relay category. About 200 participated in the event. Courtesy photos .

Lt. Col. John Harding runs the 5K challenge during the 6th Annual Iron Soldier Sprint Triathlon held here Oct. 7 at the Aquatics Training Center. Harding and his 10-year-old daughter Gabby won the relay category. About 200 participated in the event. Courtesy photos .

By Virginia Reza, Fort Bliss Public Affairs:

(El Paso, Texas, Oct. 19, 2017)

The Por-Christ(ian) team of Lt. Col. John Harding and his 10-year-old daughter Gabby only practiced a couple of weeks, but they came in first in the relay – and second overall – in the Iron Soldier Sprint Triathlon here Oct. 7.

This was the first time a father and daughter team won the relay portion of the race in the six years Fort Bliss has hosted it, said Sean Lewis, director, sports and aquatics, Fort Bliss Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation. It was also the first time the team had competed together.

This was not a first, however, for Gabby, an avid and successful swimmer, who has won several competitions for the Fort Bliss Barracudas Aquatics Swim Team.

The team of two was initially a threesome, with Gabby as the swimmer, John as the runner and his 11-year-old son Christian as the cyclist. However, due to a minor accident, Christian was unable to participate.

Gabby Harding, 10, swims the 400-meter challenge during the 6th Annual Iron Soldier Sprint Triathlon at the Fort Bliss Aquatic Center here Oct. 7. Gabby is a member of the Fort Bliss Barracudas Swim Team and has won several first-place medals.

The competition consisted of a 400-meter swim, a 15-mile bike ride and a 5K run. John ran and cycled and Gabby competed in the swim, with a team score of 1 hour, 12 minutes and 43.1 seconds. Gabby completed the swim in 6 minutes, 45 seconds – 8 seconds faster than the event’s overall first-place winner, Marco Bustamante, who competed in the 30-to-34 age division.

“The triathlon was a great time,” said Gabby.

John, a devoted Catholic, believes that to be successful in this life you have to take care of your mind, body and soul. He teaches his children to be kind, physically fit and academically prepared.

John said he encourages everyone to participate in the FMWR athletic events, as he believes effective minds are due to healthy bodies. Lewis puts on great athletic events that are fun, serve as stress relievers, are a way of meeting people with the same interests, are inexpensive and return proceeds right back to the Army family, he said.

“You don’t have to come in first to have fun,” said John. “It is just a great community event to participate in.”

John, assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 1st Armored Division, recently returned from a year in Afghanistan and said he is thrilled to be back in El Paso.

“This is a beautiful community,” John said. “There is lots to do. People don’t realize how nice it is here. Great food, weather, athletic opportunities, the schools are good and the people are wonderful. What else do you want? It’s good to be back.”

From left: the Por-Christ(ian) Team, Lt. Col. John Harding and his 10-year-old daughter Gabby, and the SFA-Team RAMROD, pose for a victory photo after the Iron Soldier Sprint Triathlon outside the Aquatics Training Center here Oct. 7. Gabby and her father, assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 1st Armored Division, teamed up to compete in the triathlon and came in first in the relay category.

Gabby said she invites all to join the Barracudas swim team. She said it is hard work, but fun.

According to John, the swim team here is not only competitive, but also one of the most financially affordable in the local area, and “worth every penny.”

For more information on athletic FMWR events, visit the Fort Bliss MWR Sports/Fitness/Aquatics page on Facebook.