Family of triathletes has room for one more

  • Article by: MEGAN RYAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 11, 2014 - 1:29 PM

Hanging on the wall in the Reagans’ basement gym is a blown-up picture, taken four years ago, of the family at the Minneapolis Life Time Fitness Triathlon finish line.

Peg and Brian huddle around four of their five kids — Kelly, Jack, Patrick and Ned — sweaty but smiling after competing in the grueling race.

The notable absence is the literal center of the family, middle child Jimmy, whose regressive-onset autism kept him from joining in the fun.

This year, Jimmy won’t be sidelined.

While the rest of his family will participate for the 10th year, 21-year-old Jimmy will compete in his first triathlon Saturday. With the assistance of his mom biking, family friend Laura Drake swimming, and his helper Josh Harrod and the rest of the Reagan contingent walking, he hopefully will cross the finish line together with his family.

“For us, getting up early in the morning and having him stay back always didn’t resonate very well,” Peg said. “I really wanted him to be able to participate. So I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. How we could do it, how we could include him, and it happened to work this year.”

The closest Jimmy came to the triathlon was wearing the old T-shirts for painting. Most are now splattered with various colors — much like the living room carpet where Jimmy has his studio.

While his family may be athletically inclined, Jimmy inherited the artistic gene. His paintings have been displayed at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts as well as across the country and the world. He sells his work, as well as scarves and ties printed with his patterns, making him the successful entrepreneur of the family.

“He’s made more money than any of the kids so far,” 19-year-old Patrick said.

Even though art has helped his son find his place in the world, Brian said he is glad Jimmy can finally be included in a family tradition.

“We’re a very close family, and I think Jimmy has been a catalyst for that,” Brian said.

“He makes us all better people. … You see parts of the world that you just would never see if all of your kids were normal. And it’s a beautiful thing.”

Jimmy developed normally as a child and was even ahead developmentally before losing all language capabilities. When he became chronically ill, doctors diagnosed the illness at age 2. The health-care challenges eventually led to Jimmy being home-schooled after eighth grade, which is when a tutor suggested art as a way to visually teach him geography.

His art career skyrocketed from there, and Jimmy has continued to exceed expectations. Doctors told his mom he never would ski and probably would need to be institutionalized by age 10. He did ski with his family, and he still happily lives at home, doing word searches on the couch while urging his mom to scratch his head with a nudge to her shoulder.

“He always wants to be included,” Peg said. “And I think that’s a misnomer sometimes for people in the spectrum that they don’t want to be included. I think it’s just the opposite.”

Drake has known the Reagans since she was born and, as a former collegiate swimmer, hopes to start Jimmy’s relay off right. While there is friendly competition among the family, Drake said the real goal is just to have fun.

“The day’s not about what we go or where we finish,” Drake said. “It’s about doing it … as a family. Doing it all together. Being there with Jimmy when he crosses the finish line.”

And the Reagans will do something more to commemorate the milestone than just add another souvenir T-shirt to Jimmy’s painting smocks.

They’re retaking that family portrait at the finish line. And this time, Jimmy is sure to be at the center.

  • related content

  • Jimmy Reagan, center, was surrounded by his triathlon support team: from left, helper Josh Harrod, brother Patrick, mother Peg, father Brian, brother Ned, friend Laura Drake and brother Jack.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Chicago 17 FINAL
Detroit 34
Philadelphia 33 FINAL
Dallas 10
Seattle 19 FINAL
San Francisco 3
Cleveland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Washington 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee 11/30/14 12:00 PM
San Diego 11/30/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Oakland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
New Orleans 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Carolina 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Arizona 11/30/14 3:05 PM
New England 11/30/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Denver 11/30/14 7:30 PM
Kansas City
Miami 12/1/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
Edmonton 0 FINAL(OT)
Nashville 1
Robert Morris 71
Santa Clara 57 FINAL
Tennessee 64
Oklahoma 59 FINAL
Butler 46
Austin Peay 79 FINAL
Brown 58
Princeton 56 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 62
Coastal Carolina 67 FINAL
Chattanooga 78
Kansas 76 FINAL
Rhode Island 60
Wisconsin 68 FINAL
Georgetown 65
USC Upstate 68
Long Island 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 73
San Diego 71 FINAL
Xavier 82
Illinois 88 FINAL
Indiana State 62
Cal State Fullerton 67 FINAL
Wright State 62
Western Ky 62 FINAL
Saint Josephs 59
Michigan State 77 FINAL
Rider 45
North Carolina 78
Long Beach State 73 FINAL
Western Mich 55
Marquette 72 FINAL
Georgia Tech 70
Stephen F Austin 73 FINAL
Prairie View 61
Florida 56
Rice 64 1st OT 1:38
Mercer 68
San Jose St 18 1st Half 3:09
Washington 31
Washington St 10:59 PM
UC Santa Barbara
Baylor 10:59 PM
Texas A&M 17
(6) TCU 48 FINAL
Texas 10
Northern Ill 11/28/14 10:00 AM
Western Mich
Nebraska 11/28/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky 11/28/14 11:00 AM
(19) Marshall
UCF 11/28/14 11:00 AM
So Florida
Houston 11/28/14 11:00 AM
Akron 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Kent State
Ball State 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Bowling Green
Buffalo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Toledo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Arkansas 11/28/14 1:30 PM
(17) Missouri
Navy 11/28/14 2:00 PM
South Alabama
(13) Arizona State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(12) Arizona
Stanford 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(9) UCLA
(21) Colorado State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
Virginia 11/28/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
East Carolina 11/28/14 7:30 PM
North Texas 11/29/14 11:00 AM
TX-San Antonio
Old Dominion 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Fla Atlantic
(16) Georgia Tech 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(8) Georgia
Kentucky 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(24) Louisville
So Carolina 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(23) Clemson
West Virginia 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Rice 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Louisiana Tech
Michigan 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(7) Ohio State
Purdue 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Illinois 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Cincinnati 11/29/14 11:00 AM
NC State 11/29/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Syracuse 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Louisiana 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Utah 11/29/14 12:00 PM
Texas State 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Idaho 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Appalachian St
Wyoming 11/29/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico
New Mexico St 11/29/14 2:00 PM
Arkansas State
UAB 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(4) Miss State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Notre Dame 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(10) Michigan State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Penn State
(22) Minnesota 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(14) Wisconsin
(5) Baylor 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Texas Tech
Florida 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
Rutgers 11/29/14 2:30 PM
San Jose St 11/29/14 2:30 PM
San Diego St
Tennessee 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Kansas 11/29/14 3:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Connecticut 11/29/14 3:00 PM
BYU 11/29/14 3:30 PM
ULM 11/29/14 5:00 PM
Ga Southern
Middle Tennessee 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Hawaii 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Fresno State
Wake Forest 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Pittsburgh 11/29/14 6:00 PM
(15) Auburn 11/29/14 6:45 PM
(2) Alabama
(3) Oregon 11/29/14 7:00 PM
Oregon State
Utah State 11/29/14 9:15 PM
(25) Boise State
Washington 11/29/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Nevada 11/29/14 9:30 PM
UCF 12/4/14 6:30 PM
East Carolina
Hamilton 11/30/14 5:00 PM
Hartford 43 FINAL
Furman 53
Clemson 77 FINAL
Ohio State 86
Idaho State 53 FINAL
San Diego State 68
East Carolina 58 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 69
Santa Clara 0 Cancelled
Texas-El Paso 0
Florida State 68 FINAL
Washington 80
Wichita State 39 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 56
Wisconsin 44 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 67
Kansas State 0 Cancelled
BYU-Hawaii 52
Charlotte 58 FINAL
Montana 67
Illinois 77 FINAL
(9) Kentucky 71
Central Michigan 61 FINAL
Richmond 56
Oklahoma 68 FINAL
South Florida 83
Princeton 72 FINAL
Wake Forest 55
(19) Oregon State 85 FINAL
Butler 53


question of the day

Poll: Will the Gophers bring home The Axe?

Weekly Question





Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters