Best in the West Triathlon returns this weekend with top competitors

The Best in The West Triathlon series returns this weekend, Sept. 10-11, with a full array of competitions – literally something for everyone, at Lewis Creek Park.

Not counting the informal gathering of triathletes in 2020, who basically all did their own thing, this year’s event will be the 11th year of what started as a senior project for Race Director Blair Bronson at Oregon State University.

The race has grown steadily over the years and Bronson, who now co-directs the event with his wife Staci, though numbers have tapered off slightly following the COVID pandemic.

“The numbers are about where they were last year,” Blair Bronson said, adding that the event has more than 700 registrants. “They’re about where they were last year. We’re not quite back to pre-pandemic levels.”

The schedule includes a wide range of events that provide competition for everyone from elite athletes in the Half Ironman and Olympic races to, well, armchair quarterback-types who can participate in the shorter events or, if there’s enough interest, the Beer Mile Relay, which returns this year at “7 p.m.-ish” on Saturday.

The latter requires up to four team members to participate in a “fast-and-furious drinking and running competition. Each of the four legs requires contestants to chug 12 ounces of their favorite brew (milk, pop, carbonated water/juice is permitted), then run a quarter of a mile.

“No registration required,” Bronson said, noting that people interested in that event should contact him at [email protected] or call (541) 915-5116.

Other options are the plash and Dash event for kids on Saturday afternoon, and a wide variety of combination events for those who don’t want to or can’t participate in the swim, bike or running legs of the triathlon. Spectator admission is free.

Bronson said this year’s fields in the competitive events are drawing some top talent.

“We have a pretty good half-iron field,” he said of the race that involves a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1-mile (half marathon) run.

“We have a couple of pros from Australia and New Zealand who are both racing the Half-Iron.”

They are Kate Bevilaqua of Australia, who has won multiple Ironman triathlons.

Bronson said Bevilaqua will be using the Best in the West as a tune-up for the Kona Ironman on Oct. 6.

Also expected is Guy Crawford of New Zealand in the men’s race. Both he and Bevilaqua split their time between Perth, Australia, and Boise, Idaho.

“They live in Australia and train there, then train in Boise during their (Australian) winter,” Bronson said. “They’re both very impressive athletes.”

Also expected back this year is Bathya Beard, defending champion in both the women’s sprint and Olympic events, in which she is expected to compete again this year.

Bronson said volunteers are needed to help put on the events.

“The biggest challenge (since COVID) has just been getting volunteers back. We’re missing some of our big volunteer groups from the past.”

For more information or to sign up, visit http://www.bestinthewesttriathlon.com/volunteer or email [email protected].

Road closures will be in effect during the races.

North River Drive will be closed to all vehicles, though local traffic will be allowed to enter during the road closure but should expect delays.

Parking is available at Sunnyside Campground for those who want to volunteer, compete or watch the events. A free shuttle is available.

The southbound lane of Quartzville Road will be closed Saturday and Sunday morning, and a pilot car will lead vehicles along the closure. Drivers should plan for up to 20-minute delays.

Residents of North River Drive, Sunnyside Road and Marks Ridge Drive should have received a local access pass in the mail to use in their vehicles. Those who have not can provide their mailing address to [email protected].

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