Triathlon Organizers Celebrate Record Breakers, Child Participation

Winners in one of the many categories pose for a photo with their award, a horseshoe trophy medal. Photos by Ryan Cummings

There are a handful of large events that take place in Sweet Home due largely to the concerted efforts of nonprofit organizations (Oregon Jamboree), countless hours of volunteer contributions (Sportsman’s Holiday), and the fact the city is surrounded by lush forests and robust lakes (Best in the West Triathlon Festival).

As Best in the West wrapped up its weekend-long festival, which hosted more than 850 participants, results from the multi-triathlon opportunities rolled in to reveal who came out on top and who broke records.

Given there are quite a number of different ways to participate in the Best in the West, as many as 486 awards were handed out. Athletes can place first based on each of the triathlons, each of the legs, age group, and coed (“open”) or women’s groups.

In the Sprint Triathlon, Reid Sund, 38, of Salem, clocked in first at 1:01:55, and Cameron Hawkins, 33, of Beaverton, clocked first for women at 1:05:40. In the Olympic Triathlon, Zane Moore, 18, of Portland, took first place at 2:03:45, and Kate Mathews, 29, of Salem, took first for women at 2:19:52. Simon Shi, 27, of Tualatin, took first in the Half Iron Triathlon at 4:04:20, while Alexis Smith, 49, of Marina, Calif., took first for women at 5:11:36.

Organizers Blair and Staci Bronson said this year’s festival saw multiple new records set. They included Open Half Iron Triathlon time (Simon Shi – 4:04:20); Open Bike split in the Half Iron Triathlon (Evan Price – 2:13:01); Open Run split in the Half Iron Triathlon (Ari Klau – 1:15:05); Women Swim split in Half Iron Aqua Bike (Jennifer Henkel – 33:23); Women Olympic Paddle Triathlon time (Emily Gartland – 2:27:56); Open Swim split in Olympic Triathlon (Kyle Miller – 19:15); Women Bike split in Olympic Paddle Triathlon (Emily Gartland – 1:16:24); Women Run split in Olympic Paddle Triathlon (Emily Gartland – 48:39); Open Bike split in Olympic Aqua Bike (Chris Pucci – 1:09:12); Open Sprint Paddle Triathlon time (Andrew Barrett – 1:11:32); Open Bike split in Sprint Paddle Triathlon (Andrew Barrett – 34:49); Women Bike split in Sprint Aqua Bike (Heather Siegel – 37:00); Women Half Marathon time (Corinne Robitaille – 1:19:47); and Open 5K time (Quincy Gill – 18:53).

Staci also noted who transitioned from swimming to cycling (T1) and cycling to running (T2) the fastest. Fastest transitions by individual racers were Joshua Monda (1:18 for T1) and Dora Boucher (0:26 for T2). Also of note were four pro athletes who participated in Best in the West’s Half Iron Distance Triathlon, including Ari Klau, Joshua Monda, Evan Price and Simon Shi.

Area residents who participated in the triathlon this year included Mindy Cummings, 47, in the 5K at 41:07; Ryder Cummings, 13, in the Super Sprint at 44:08; Steven Hiett, 59, in the 5K at 23:30; and Ken Bronson, 69, who, organizers say, holds the record for most times participating in Best in the West (14-time finisher). He participated in the half iron aqua bike, completing the event at 4:22:37.

By all appearances, the most widely participated-in event at Best in the West this year was the Olympic Triathlon, which drew 225 participants, followed by the Sprint Triathlon at 190. The Half Iron Triathlon drew 40 participants.

But the organizers created additional events that are intended to put the “fun” into “run.” Children are encouraged to participate in a short swim course (ages 3-8) or long swim course (ages 9-15) in the Splash and Dash event, or take it up a notch in the Super Sprint Triathlon. And the festival hosts a Beer Mile Relay, providing something of an athlete bonding opportunity.

“This is so much more than a triathlon,” Staci said. “Best in the West Tri Fest is a family friendly, inclusive, endurance sport festival with something for everyone. The Splash and Dash kids event is a way for the younger ones to literally dip a toe into racing. We opt for smiles and accomplishment over finish times and placing (the Splash and Dash is not timed).”

The Bronsons said they give cheers, smiles and high fives to encourage kids to simply do their best based on how they feel that day. They also celebrate anything from completing laps to just walking the beach with their feet in the water.

“It’s all about building each other up and supporting one another,” she said. “It’s one of my favorite parts of the weekend.”

The swimming events took place at Lewis Creek Park, followed by cycling legs that ran west across the north side of Foster Lake through North River Road, Pleasant Valley Road, McDowell Creek Drive and Berlin Road. Runners ran the length of Foster Lake on North River Road, or along Quartzville Road for the shorter event.

To accommodate the influx of participants as well as locals who simply wanted to enjoy their area parks, parking was made available at Sunnyside Park with shuttle service available to and from Lewis Creek Park.

Shuttle driver Roger Fullman, who’s been a driver for the event for several years, noted how better managed the roads were this year. One lane along North River Drive is reserved for triathlon participants while the other lane is reserved for vehicular traffic.

Fullman said the traffic lane used to have cars going in both directions, which posed problems at times, but this year it was set so that the shuttle driver acted as an escort for the cars that needed to pass one way or the other along the road.

Staci said they work hard to facilitate roadway access for those who live off North River Road. Since this is the 14th year for the triathlon, most area residents are accustomed to the changes on the route once a year, the Bronsons noted.

“We want to make it easy for them to come and go, and we’ve been working really hard to help them get through,” Staci said.

Blair added that they realize the event has an impact on the community and it requires a big traffic control plan to manage, but the festival has little to no complaints lodged regarding any inconveniences.

“We want to try and minimize the impact as much as possible for delaying schedules and things like that, and have it be just a positive event in the area that’s bringing a lot of fun recreation and positive attitudes out.”

Looking back on how the festival went for its first time in June, Staci said it was a “huge” success.