Memorial Day Monday is celebrated in many ways across the country. From memorial ceremonies with fly over jets to riverside campgrounds with friends and family around fire. For a few weekend warriors, Memorial Day starts with a sprint triathlon at the Osborne Aquatic Center in Corvallis, OR.
The first wave of swimmers at this year’s Heart of the Valley Triathlon took to the pool just after 8am with additional waves of swimmers hitting the lanes minutes after the previous wave cleared the waters in search of their bikes. By 9am, the final wave of swimmers pushed from the starting blocks. In all, 159 individuals finished the race in addition to 11 relay teams. Race organizers utilized an outdoor 25-yard pool in addition to the indoor 50-meter pool with extra wide lanes to expedite the tricky task of efficiently conducting a pool swim triathlon. In the early waves a plethora of athletes with various swim techniques managed their way through the 7-1/2 laps. From the pool deck, I witnessed backstrokes, breast strokes, side strokes and back floats. I couldn’t help but think of the courage it must have taken some of these novice swimmers to enter into the event.
Before the 3rd and final wave started in the indoor pool many of the contestants checked with their lane mates about the rules and conduct when passing. There would be a lot of passing as the lane assignments were configured according to each swimmers estimated 500-yard time. Some of the estimated times may have had more to do with desired time rather than a true estimate. Thank goodness for the extra wide lanes. Some swimmers stopped at the wall to allow for quicker fish to move ahead and occasionally a center line pass was required to keep everybody moving. When the churn of the pools subsided, Jefferey Nason stood a top the best swim split of the morning with an Aquaman like 10:02. Jeff was followed by Karl Britsch’s 10:32 and Matt Berg’s 10:38 to establish the top three men heading into transition. On the women’s side, Rachel Lee led out of the water like she has at this event in year’s past with a 10:33 split. The next women out of the water was Jayette Pettit at 12:04 followed by Allysa Martin at 12:48.
The HOTV bike course may be a mile shorter than the typical sprint distance of 12 miles, but it makes up for its abbreviated distance with a steady grind of rolling hills. With nary a flat section, riders find themselves constantly cycling up and back down their chain ring in search of the perfect gear to tackle the terrain. Matt Berg quickly established the overall lead with a quick transition followed by a strong climb up the opening hill. The field behind Berg shuffled a bit with Steve Mayer making the biggest leap from 14th out of the water to 3rd into transition. Steve utilized a the leading bike split on the day (28:28) to pull into contention while making it look rather effortless while passing me into the transition area. Berg led the race by 1:30 heading into the run.
On the women’s side, three ladies separated themselves from the pack with strong bike splits to set up a three racer showdown on the run. Molly McGraw’s 34:17 set the bar on the ride while also pulling her from 35th out of the water to 2nd in transition. Just 16 seconds behind McGraw, in 3rd position, was Gruber who had chipped away at Lee’s solid lead with a 35:28 bike split. Lee held onto the lion’s share of her lead with a 35:37 split and entered the run 2-minutes clear of her chasers.
A shirtless Matt Berg headed out of transition with a quick cadence and relentless pace. He never looked back on the lead he established early on the ride and cruised to victory with a new course record. Berg’s 58:32 erased the previous mark established by last year’s winner Grant Hayball (59:18). I paced the leader with a similar run split and pulled to the line at 1:00:02 and the same deficit (1:30) that I had entering the run. Chris Depner laid down the fastest run split on the day (17:20) while firmly securing his 3rd place finish.
The women’s race provided the drama for the morning with a shuffling of the deck towards the end of the run. Gruber whittled away at Lee’s lead in the winding twists of the neighborhood run on her way to a top performing women’s split of 18:37. She needed all but 14 seconds of her run margin to take the lead and ultimately the win on the women’s race with a total time of 1:08:58. Lee held on for second with a total time of 1:09:12. McGraw slipped from 2nd to 3rd overall and finished with a total time of 1:10:47 while laying down an impressive 20:43 run split.
There are plenty of colorful stories and addition to the race that don’t take place towards the front of the pack and those are the participants that make regional events like the Heart of the Valley sprint triathlon thrive. Three cheers to Team Burton and the “I am Burton” shirts worn while racing. I share my applause also with young Sawyer Olson who took his father’s advise and tried all he could to “stick to that guy there!” while out on the run. Sawyer’s father was pointing at me from the passenger seat of his van while egging his son on during the run. I’m guessing young Sawyer will soon be scanning the race calendar on www.racecenter.com in search of his next event.
A special thanks to AA Sports, event sponsors and the folks at the Osborne Aquatic Center for another great experience at the Heart of the Valley Triathlon.
For complete race results, CLICK HERE.
Men’s Winner Matt Berg :58:32
Women’s Winner Elizabeth Gruber 1:08:58
Age Group Winners:
Male 11 and under Jason Seiner 1:26:20
Male 12-14 Sawyer Olson 1:18:48
Male 15-17 Axel Estell 1:21:42
Male 18-19 Marco Ramirez 1:06:32
Male 20-24 Lucas Montgomery 1:08:50
Male 25-29 Chris Depner 1:02:14
Male 30-34 Travis Vitek 1:02:47
Male 35-39 Craig Dean 1:00:02
Male 40-44 Ken Hyland 1:04:08
Male 45-49 Steve Mayer 1:03:59
Male 50-54 Greg Hoard 1:16:01
Male 55-59 Phil Anderson 1:14:46
Male 60-64 Philip Deluca 1:28:10
Male 65-69 Riley King 2:17:14
Women 11 and under Ember Stratton 1:48:44
Women 12-14 Akari Seiner 1:32:21
Women 18-19 Olivia Cook 1:30:11
Women 20-24 Rachel Lee 1:09:12
Women 25-29 Juline Walker 1:15:39
Women 30-34 Jennifer Phillips 1:20:04
Women 35-39 Yalitza Moreno 1:20:51
Women 40-44 Cory Larson 1:22:25
Women 45-49 Jayette Pettit 1:18:22
Women 50-54 Mari Hammon 1:23:11
Women 55-59 Gail Kimberling 1:23:41
women 60-64 Sharon Gerl 1:22:47