Eastlink Centre Triathlon major hit despite adverse weather

Steve Sharp rides through the rain during the cycling leg of the Eastlink Centre Triathlon Sprint category, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. Sharp finished 1st in the men's category and in the sprint overall with a time of 1:08:03.4. Steven Peterson

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The third annual Eastlink Centre Triathlon saw more than 300 athletes compete, braving the cold and the rain, Sunday morning to claim completion of the course.

The competition sold out, registering 325 athletes, ranging in age from four years to well into their 70s, to compete in nine categories. According to Dryland Sports and Event Logistics Supervisor Tracie Gillis, a few also sought last minute entries into the competition.

“For (anyone) who trains out here, (the race) captures all of what this facility is about,” said Gillis.

From Athabasca to Calgary, participants flocked to the event from all across Alberta. Some came in the wake of the Triathlon Alberta circuit, while others sought a personal challenge to complete.

Catering to those who may have been unfamiliar or on the fence about challenging a triathlon, the Eastlink Centre hosted a “Try-a-Tri,” for anyone not yet committed to triathlon, but still wanting to experiment with the sport.

Eastlink Centre General Manager Angela Redding said there were a total of 25 participants registered for the “Try-a-Tri,” circuit, up from the nine seen in last year’s event.

“We had a whole slew of brand new people who wanted to try, and afterwards came up to us and said, ‘That was so much fun, I’m going to train for next year,’” said Redding.

“It’s really wonderful to see these people challenging themselves and getting out there.”

With a laugh, Gillis and Redding said the allure of medals was not the only glory driving competitors to brave the unfavorable weather.

“It’s kind of that all-encompassing workout; overcoming obstacles and fulfilling personal goals,” said Gillis.

Kevin McNee glides down the road outlined in the cycling leg of the 2019 Eastlink Centre Triathlon Sprint category, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. KcNee finished 9th in the mens category, and 13th in the sprint overall with a time of 1:26:13.6. Steven Peterson

To each person who successfully completed the triathlon, they were awarded a T-shirt, swag bag, swim cap, finisher mug and a medal, with special recognitions being awarded to the fastest male and female competitor in each category.

Steve Sharp and Brynlee Thomas claimed the fastest male and female completion times in the largest category—being the Sprint, finishing with times of 1:08:03.4 and 1:16:44.8 respectively.

According to Redding, a first and a highlight of this year’s event was the addition of the Junior and Youth Cups, courtesy of the officiating body, Triathlon Alberta.

“It’s an honor that they thought of us and brought the Youth and Junior Cups to Grande Prairie, and there was an interest in bringing more higher up and elite athletes here as well,” said Redding.

Already looking to grow the event for next year’s installment, the team is talking about expanding the number of entries and building a type of “Athlete fair” that includes a trade show.

“There are an unlimited number of things we could do, including more distances and team formats,” said Redding.

“We just have to look at whether something is logistically possible with the volunteer base that we have, and if we would be able to pull something off well.”