Triathlon weekend draws ‘record’ numbers, despite hot temperatures

Scott Swanson

Despite temperatures in the 90s and a slight shortage in volunteers, the fifth annual Best in the West triathlon series was a resounding success, organizers said.

“The water conditions were beautiful,” Director Blair Bronson said. “The bike and run went well. It was a record year. We’re growing every year.”

The sprint race (500-meter swim in Foster Lake, 12-mile bike ride, 5K (3.1-mile) run) on Saturday morning drew 190 participants, 110 of them women. The Half-Ironman (1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run) drew 112, 77 of them men, all but three of whom finished the race in the demanding heat. The only finisher from Sweet Home was Ken Bronson, Blair’s father, who has competed in various triathlon disciplines for some four decades.

“That was the hardest race I’ve ever done in my life,” Bronson said, noting that the heat and cramps took their toll, particularly during the 13.1-mile run.

Blair Bronson said that “lots of volunteers” helped competitors along the course in the Half-Ironman.

“It definitely got warm,” he said. “That slowed the times down. On a hot day like that, you have to readjust expectations.”

A total of 130 participants competed in the open Olympic race (1500-meter swim, 40K (just under 25 miles) bike ride, 10K (6.2-mile run) – 68 men and 62 women. Winner of the men’s race was Evan Pardi, 21, in 2:03.08 (21:59/1:02.04/37:41). The women’s winner was Hannah Braun, 25, in 2:27.17 (21:35/1:17:46/45:36).

Bronson said water temperatures in the lake hovered between 70 and 66, which made it comfortable for swimming.

Kambria Schumacher of Sweet Home successfully defended her sprint title in 1:05.04 (8:50/34:19/20:43), nearly eight minutes ahead of the second-place finisher, but two minutes off her personal best for the course. Schumacher originally planned to race the Olympic as well, which she won last year, but got sick earlier last week and decided to limit herself to one race.

Devin Volk won the men’s sprint race in 59:58 (7:23/32:31/18:58).

“It was a tough call, but it was the right one,” said Schumacher. She said she plans to compete in one final triathlon later this year.

Also finishing the women’s sprint race from Sweet Home was Diane Leyba, 44, who clocked 2:27:30 (20:30/1:10:38/50:25). On the men’s side, three Sweet Home athletes finished: Eric Mauer, 37, in 1:30:54 (11:16/45:33/30:21), Jorel Leyba, 11, in 1:48:40 (18:07/56:05/31:08), and Cameron Taber, 15 (13:16/1:11:37/30:24).

The only other repeat winner was Brian Schaning, 32, men’s Half-Ironman defending champion, who finished in 4:26:42 (27:56/2:25:10/1:31:39). Brynje Enderle, 37, was the women’s winner in 5:01:34 (34:20/2:48:10/1:36:08).

Also among the finishers was Sweet Home Fire Chief Dave Barringer, who teamed up with Albany Fire Chief John Bradner and Lebanon Fire Chief Gordon Stetmoe in the Olympic relay, finishing second. Barringer swam the 1500 meters in 34:50.

Finishing the Try-a-Tri was Sweet Home High School’s Allison Wickline, who completed the 250 meter swim, five-mile bike ride and 1.5-mile run in 45:52, good for third.

The University of Washington won the collegiate competition, in which the top two men and women from each school scored for the team. The Huskies’ winning margin was unusually tight for Olympic-distance triathlons, Bronson said.

“They were under two minutes ahead of Oregon State,” he said. “That is seconds per person. Usually, teams score in 10-minute differences. That’s how small the Northwest is. It was pretty cool.”

The event is going to need more help, as numbers grow, Bronson said. The goal is 150 per day. Two of the 200 volunteers who helped make the event happen were City Manager Craig Martin and Police Chief Jeff Lynn, who helped with the swim.

One big change this year was an improved swim course, Bronson said.

“It took a lot of man-hours to set up, but it was a premier swimming course. In any race in the Northwest, that is about the best course you’ll ever see for for 1500 meters. Instead of four, five, six buoys, we had 18 buoys about 100 meters apart, It took a while to get them all set properly, but it was a beautiful thing. It was dead on.”