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This may be the year of the rookie triathlete.
Annual memberships in USA Triathlon are on the rise, soaring past the 30,000 mark. At the end of last season, there were 115,000 one-day memberships purchased for $7 by people wanting to give triathlons a try.
Area race directors and competitors say the popularity of Florida's "user-friendly" sprint-distance events may be a reason for the sport's popularity.
Many people, of all ages, think they can learn to swim a quarter mile, bike 10 miles and run 3 miles. Some even compete on heavy mountain bikes while trying to decide if they want to invest hours of time and thousands of dollars being fitted for a 16-pound racing machine with 24 speeds.
Other people say they consider a bicycle purchase to be an investment in a healthy lifestyle. Some continue to compete on a mountain bike or lighter hybrid cycle, often entering the "fat-tire division" in the shorter sprint events.
POLICE HOST TRI: The 10th annual Top Cop Triathlon last Sunday attracted 100 enthusiastic rookies and a few seasoned elites.
First-timers were delighted to find race officials clocking swim heats, in each lane. The athletes then jumped out of the pool and ran to their cycles for the bike/run segments. The more competitive age-group winners brought out the aero cycles, battling the heat in pursuit of the one-hour mark.
Hosted by the City of Temple Terrace Parks and Recreation Department and the Temple Terrace Police Department, the pool swim event is held at the Aquatic Center on Whiteway Drive.
The triathlon ( quarter-mile swim, 8-mile bike ride and 3-mile run) was won for a second time by Tampa's Clyde Ball, 47 minutes and 11 seconds.
Clearwater Aquatics swimmer Caitlin Warner, 15, was the fastest overall female in 57:03. Warner, a Palm Harbor University student from Clearwater, posed for the digital cameras during the pool deck awards ceremony with her father, Tom, who won the 45-49 age group (51:59).
"Caitlin is a great swimmer, and that helps in this race. Tom said.
"My daughter works hard on her swimming with the CAT team at Long Center. It was the bike that she wasn't sure about, but she was able to hang onto her lead," he said.
Other division winners were Stephen Banister, 16, Tampa, 54:59; Alex Jones, 20, St.Petersburg, 49:23; Lindsey Phelps, 20, St.Petersburg, 1:03:08; Craig Kydstra, 29, Clermont, 51:59; Carey Rosetti, 25, Tampa, 1:03:28; Neil Robichaux, 30, Tampa, 48:25; Jodi O'Meara, 33, Sarasota, 57:50; Chris Molina, 37, Inverness, 49:41; Sheila Mitchell, 35, Largo, 57:10; Bill Barr, 42, Odessa, 51:31; Victoria Defabrizio, 40, Tampa, 1:05:24; Mary Anne Lyle, 45, Temple Terrace, 1:00:43; Bill Floyd, 53, Temple Terrace, 1:04:23; Carole Torreano, 54, Safety Harbor, 1:06:01; Bob Kummers, 55, Lutz, 58:32; and Joe Cimino, 66, Tampa, 1:04:10. The Top Master was Largo's Jim Sheets, 42, in 49:56. The Top Law Enforcement Officer was Richard Mills Jr., 32, of the Tampa Police Department, 53:09. Rick Cervis, 48, of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, won Top Law Enforcement Master, 53:47; and race director Bill Daggett, 52, of the Temple Terrace Police Department, took the 50-54 class, 1:02:26.
MORE ROOKIE NEWS: Laurie Laurino, a St.Pete Mad Dog from Tierra Verde, is training for the AARP Tri-umph Triathlon at St.Petersburg's North Shore Pool. Laurino and her husband, Joe, recently hosted an Ironman Florida send-off party to honor their coach, Lewis Bennett.
Bennett and his training partners, Palm Harbor's Leslie Stallings and Seminole's Darry Jackson, will join 90 Mad Dogs to compete in the Nov.9 Ironman Florida in Panama City Beach. The AARP Tri-umph is scheduled for Nov.17, and volunteers are needed. For information, go online to www.aarp.org/triumph or call (800) 424-3410.
MAD DOGS: Membership in the St.Pete Triathlon Club has surpassed the 2,000 mark and ranges from rookies to experienced Ironman athletes. For information, go online to www.stpetemaddogs.com.
TAMPABAY FIT: Each Saturday morning at dawn near North Shore Pool, TampaBay Fit coaches and volunteers have group workouts for novice and intermediate marathon runners.
Volunteers at the Snell Isle water stops are triathletes Brian Bartlett, Tom Bozich, Pat Brighton, Jennifer Hutcheson and Lisa Langals. Walkers are welcome. Hutcheson, a St.Petersburg dietitian, has coached novice triathlete Richard Angwin, who has lost 100-plus pounds. The AARP Tri-umph event will be his first triathlon.
"My doctor could not believe it when I came in for my physical a few months ago," Angwin said. "I was up to 367 pounds, and now I'm at 246. I'm 58, the same age as my father when he died of a heart attack. My brother was 55 when he died of a heart attack. I want to compete to celebrate life and fitness and to remember two good men."
For information, go online to www.tampabayfit.com.
TRI-ING FOR CURE: York Somerville will play host to the Tri-ing For A Cure event Saturday at Tampa Palms YMCA. Distances for the race, to benefit the Epilepsy Research Foundation, will be a quarter-mile pool swim, 10 miles of biking and a 3.1-mile run. For information, call (727) 527-8869.