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Volunteer Lee Hobbs, right, points to the orange line where triathlete April Schottelkorb starts the cycling leg of the 22nd Athens YMCA Triathlon. Over 400 triathletes competed in this year’s event, which started at Cain Center.

Jayson Larson/Athens Review
Athens Review, Athens, Texas

Competition at the 22nd annual Athens YMCA Triathlon, sponsored by the Henderson County YMCA, was as good as ever.

Brady O’Bryan of Flint, near Tyler, took overall top honors at this year’s event, held Saturday. The event started at Cain Center, but as many local residents and passers-through saw, the competition spread out across Athens as somewhere near 400 competitors — 434 registered for the event — tore across town.

The event sent competitors on a 300-meter swim through Cain Center’s Olympic-sized pool, then onto their bikes for a 14-mile ride down State Highway 19 South and onto Loop 7. Riders swung back around on the loop and headed back to Cain Center, where they finished the competition with a 3.1-mile run.

“I think it went great,” YMCA Executive Director Bob Morton said. “Though we had a low number of volunteers, those who were out stepped up to the plate and did everything they were asked. The participants were fantastic.”

For the record, Morton said competitors came to participate from all over Texas and from other states including Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina and Minnesota. Competitors were as young as 12; Morton said one woman was 76.

“She passed some of the people on the bike,” he said.

“(The competitors) just look at this as one of the first events they can participate in for the first of the year,” Morton added. “We have so many people return each year. We just have such a good event.”

The beginning of the triathlon was delayed about 30 minutes while officials waited for a heavy morning fog to clear. Volunteers assisted by offering water to runners and helping competitors line up in the correct positions for each stage of the triathlon.

One change from previous years was the bike route. Morton said the route went west to State Highway 31 this year rather than east to 31 on Loop 7. In past years, some participants complained about the rough ride going east. He said this year, riders had nothing but good things to say about heading west.

Another change was seen with the introduction of a two-story-high climbing wall. Such side attractions fit the idea Morton said he has for the future of the triathlon — making it a place where there’s something offered for the entire family and not just for competitors.

Proceeds from the Triathlon will go toward program scholarships for youth who could not otherwise afford to participate in YMCA programs.

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