Triathlon expects big turnout

By By Marty Stamper / EMG sports assistant
July 9, 2004
Barring any unforeseen circumstances, this year's Sunfish Summer Triathlon should easily better last year's race when it comes to the number of participants.
As of midweek, some 220 athletes had been downloaded for the 18th running of the race at Okatibbee Reservoir. The race starts with a half-mile swim beginning at 7 a.m. Athletes then hit their bikes for a 21-mile ride through the Collinsville area before closing out with a five-mile run that finishes on the dam.
Swimmers will have staggered starts based on five-second intervals.
"We're figuring 270 or more. At least that's what we're hoping for," said race spokesperson Karla Wiese. "Last year, 218 finished, not counting the team participants. This is going to be bigger."
"We put feelers out everywhere we can," race director Kirk Gosa said. "A lot of the participation depends on what's going on that weekend and what people have going on and what other events we're competing against.
"Obviously, we're going to have a good turnout this year and we're pleased with that."
Already registered are defending champions Donny Forsyth and Margaret Finley, both of Memphis.
Forsyth has won the race the last two years.
The course will be the same as last year. Many athletes and their followers like the Sunfish in that they can see each athlete swim, start and finish their bike ride, and start and finish their run without having to walk very far.
Gosa competed in the Sunfish in 1990 when he lived at Tupelo and found it to his liking.
"That was the last time I've done it," Gosa said. "I liked the venue. It was very nice. I enjoy our type race a little more where you do loops and have a transition area that's common for all the events.
"Point-to-point races can be a little logistically hard to do if you're by yourself and trying to get your equipment from one area to the other."
The first Sunfish was held in 1987. The area's other triathlon, the Heart o' Dixie, began in 1980.
"We get good participation from the surrounding states," Gosa said. "This is the Southeast Regional club championship, so the clubs from Birmingham (Ala.), Memphis, parts of Louisiana, and Arkansas come to compete."
Forsyth and Finley are both members of the Los Locos club from Memphis which won last year's club title.
"We expect a good turnout and could use any volunteers that want to show up Saturday morning at 6 o'clock to help us out with the race," Gosa added.

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