|[Times photo: James Borchuck]
Trathletes race past the Renaissance Vinoy Resort in St. Petersburg and head into the final turn to the finish line during the amateur portion of St. Anthony's Triathlon on Sunday.
By JOHN SCHWARB, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 29, 2002
ST. PETERSBURG -- At St. Anthony's Triathlon, the first across the finish line is not necessarily first. The overall winner could be the second or third to finish or emerge from even farther back in the pack.
That's the dilemma with the multiple-wave start, which St. Anthony's uses to deploy its 2,000 competitors. Starting at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, age groups hit the water in five-minute waves.
For elites, such a start makes it impossible to locate and monitor competitors.
"I'm chasing a ghost on the swim, chasing a ghost on the bike and the run," said John Reback, 34. "I've got to mentally push myself."
The North Palm Beach resident was the first to finish, but not first overall. Daniel Domingo started 15 minutes later than Reback in the men's 15-29 age group and posted a faster time, but no one officially learned he had won until results were posted.
Race director Steve Meckfessel said there will be no such problem next year, as an elite wave will be introduced.
"We need to be able to identify our true elite amateur athletes, and the only way to do that is to put in that division," Meckfessel said. "I'm pretty much convinced after this year that we need to do it."
One potential conflict may be collecting enough elites, as St. Anthony's traditionally accepts the first 2,000 entries regardless of ability and fills quickly. Many elites wait until the final weeks to enter, though Meckfessel noted an impressive four of the eight 2001 USA Triathlon-recognized "Triathlete of the Year" honorees participated Sunday.
"I'm confident that no other race in this country will have that this year, 50 percent of those honorees," Meckfessel said.
DOUBLE DUTY: Clearwater's George LaBanca put in a full weekend of exercise, completing the triathlon and helping a friend at Saturday's Meek & Mighty.
Largo's Aron Jones, 22, is blind, but has completed seven short triathlons with LaBanca's help. At the Meek & Mighty, Jones completed the 1-mile run with his Seeing Eye dog, the 3.6-mile bike while riding on the back of a two-person cycle with LaBanca and the 100-yard swim with LaBanca at his side.
"I enjoy (St. Anthony's) for myself, but I'd give this up to race with him," said LaBanca, 46. "It's really special."
PURPLE PEOPLE: The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team In Training is a major force at many amateur endurance races, and Sunday's event was no different. Twenty percent of the field, 400 triathletes, ran with the familiar Team In Training green and purple colors.
Sarah Block, 25, flew from St. Louis with 20 members of her local chapter.
"It's the first time I've been down here, and my first Olympic-distance triathlon," she said. "Good weather, good race. It was a fun time."
PERFECT ATTENDANCE: St. Petersburg's Jack Helinger breezed across the finish line -- again. He has not missed any of the St. Anthony's Triathlons and plans to complete No. 20 next year.
"I'm fighting the hands of time," said Helinger, 51, with a smile. "But I haven't gotten older in the last year."
AWOL AGAIN: Daniel Domingo won for the second consecutive year and for the second consecutive time was not at the postrace awards ceremony. Friends said he went to church.
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