Good times, turnout overcome Best in the West ‘hurdles’

Scott Swanson

Despite some “hurdles,” more than 600 contestants showed up Saturday and Sunday to compete in a multitude of Best in the West Triathlon series events at Lewis Creek Park.

“It went really well,” said Staci Bronson, who co-directs the event with her husband Blair Bronson, who founded it in 2012.

“It was a good year,” Blair added, noting that nearly all the event’s emergency planning procedures got very real as temperatures shot up to 100 degrees, the winds kicked up and power outages threatened, though the park did not actually lose power.

“Plus, we still have a pandemic,” Staci said.

Then, to add to the drama, the temperature in Foster Reservoir, where the swim competitions were held, plunged 12 degrees overnight on Friday as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released water, which also dislodged “50-foot logs” and other debris that had been on the banks of the lake Friday night.

Lake temperatures have dropped in the past, but not more than three degrees, Blair said.

“We had a lot of adversity from Mother Nature this year,” Blair said. “It was an eventful weekend.”

For the first time in the event’s history, a vehicle-bike collision occurred on the course Saturday in the 43000 block of North River Drive. The rider was unhurt other than some scratches and bruises, and was volunteering on Sunday, Staci said.

According to the Linn County Sheriff’s Office, a 17-year-old driver hit Guy Crawford, of Perth, Australia, while attempting to swerve around bicyclists on the course. He was transported to Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital, where he was treated and released. His bicycle, helmet and racing suit, however, were losses.

Despite less-than-optimal conditions, 602 people, ranging in age from 2 to 93, showed up to compete, from 20 states and four countries. Staci said 104 of the competitors were 18 or younger.

A total of 778 people signed up, but she said “with smoke rolling in” and conditions bordering on unhealthy, organizers decided to offer virtual options to those who didn’t want to compete in those conditions.

“Some of those times are already getting emailed in,” Staci said Monday.

Batya Beard, 24, of Portland, won both the women’s Olympic (on Saturday) and the women’s Sprint event (Sunday), defending her title in both events.

Seventeen-year-old Kyle Miller, of Eugene, won the men’s Olympic event on Saturday in 2:13.02,

14 seconds ahead of Beard, who finished second overall in 2:13.16. They topped a field of 143 participants in the race.

Joshua Monda, 40, of Vancouver, won the Half-Iron, also held Saturday morning, beating a field of 58 contestants, in 4:14.39.

Carly Gross, 30, of Spokane, won the women’s Half-Iron in 5:19.40.

Beard was fourth overall in the Sprint Triathlon, held Sunday morning, with a field of 200 participants. She finished in 1:06.16.

The overall winner was Kevin Le, 26, of Vancouver, in 59:42. Second was Zane Moore, 16, of Portland, in 1:00.50.

Montana State, which brought the largest contingent of athletes and traveled the furthest, won the college club team Olympic competition Saturday, defending its title.

New NCAA teams Humboldt State and Willamette University competed Sunday in the Sprint competition, using the event as a “head-to-head race for them,” Blair said. “It was cool to see the NCAA teams starting to show up.

Blair Bronson said they were “super happy” with how things went.

“There were a lot of hurdles this year,” he said. “I’m glad people came out and had a good time.”

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