The Great Hay River Triathlon suddenly became a big sporting event this year.
On Sept. 10 – a rainy, windy and generally miserable day – 39 people still showed up to compete as individuals or as part of teams in the triathlon.
Ashley Coombs, the aquatics supervisor with the Town of Hay River and the organizer of the event, said it is believed to have been the biggest turnout ever.
“That’s what everybody was saying,” she said. “They couldn’t believe the outstanding participation this year.”
Coombs was not sure why there was such increased interest, other than to note the event was promoted more this year.
Whatever the reason, she was pleased with the turnout and the competition.
“I am overwhelmed,” she said, adding she can’t express in words her happiness about the great job done by all participants. “It was fantastic.”
The triathlon began in 2008 and has been held most years since.
One man – Chris Gosman – came from High Level, Alta., and was the lone competitor in the triathlon’s Olympic section, which involved 1.5 kilometres swimming (60 lengths of the pool), 40 kilometres bicycling and 10 kilometres running.
The top team in the Olympic division consisted of Scott Hendrickson, Michelle Babiuk and Luke Daigneault.
There was also a sprint division, consisting of 0.75 kilometres swimming (30 lengths of the pool), 20 kilometres biking and five kilometres running.
The top sprint team consisted of Daniel DaRosa, Mike MacEachern and Mason Hachey.
The top solo female competitor in the sprint division was Natalie Diaz, while the top finisher in the solo male sprint division was Jamie Tennant.
Coombs praised all competitors.
“I applaud them for bearing the elements of Mother Nature today given the conditions we were dealt and still committing to show up and doing this,” she said. “And everybody was so supportive. If there was a finisher coming in, it would be announced and there were bells going off and lots of cheering. It was fantastic. The support was just great.”
Coombs herself swam for a sprint team, and she enjoyed the experience.
“It was lots of fun,” she said.
Bonnie Crowther was competing in her first triathlon but has previously biked a lot, she said.
“So I thought I’d try it this year and get a team together,” she said. “I can’t swim, so I couldn’t do it all by myself.”
Crowther said she became involved because it’s a challenge and also because she enjoys taking part in different events in the community.
“I thought about it for a few years and was always busy in the summer and never got a team together,” she said. “So this year I did it.”
Scott Hendrickson ran for his team just to get out and do something.
“I’m actually training for a marathon, so the 10K is just kind of a thing to do for the day to train,” he said, adding that marathon will be held in Toronto in October.
Becky Aylward swam for her team in the Olympic division, and it was her first time participating in the triathlon.
Noting that she was suffering from a cold, Aylward said she mostly had to swim the backstroke to make it easier to breathe.
However, she was feeling good at the end of her swim.
“I feel really great, and I wasn’t last,” she said with a laugh. “That makes me really, really happy.”