Triathlon a hit as professional racers tackle Lake Leatherwood course

Thursday, June 15, 2006
The horn sounded, and athletes dashed into the cool water of Lake Leatherwood to start the 1st Eureka Springs Triathlon last Saturday morning. It was a long, hot day. David McNeal / Carroll County News

EUREKA SPRINGS -- They came from Dallas and Kansas City and points inbetween for the 1st Eureka Springs Off-Road Triathlon, a Nissan Xterra Points Series Race, but none had more fun than the hometown coed team of Bob Romano, Larry Harrison, and Patsy Miller, seen above at the massage tables after the race.

Willy Pickhardt of Fayetteville ran off with the race, finishing the half-mile swim in Lake Leatherwood in 12:05, then biking 13 miles in 1:18. He finished the five-mile run in 44:32, an 8:55 mile pace after all that, and won in 2:18.15.

But the local trio was right on his heels. Harrison was 27th out of the water in a field of 87, then Romano powered away on his mountain bike, taking the lead from the teams entered, and trailing just six of the profesionals when he handed off the electronic ankle bracelet used for timing to Miller.

It was an amazing effort by the local stars, but disaster was waiting on a steep downhill, where Miller pulled a leg muscle and had to give it up.

Promoter Nick Cross had recruited a host of Eureka volunteers to man water stations, direct traffic, provide medical care, and man safety crews in the various locations, and the well-organized event went off without a hitch.

Runners were pleased with the Lake Leatherwood experience and said it was very comparable to other X-Terra events.

Sarah Stalder of Rogers won the women's division in 3:17.27, but took a nasty fall on her mountain bike and had to run the five miles with a bloody leg. Her husband waited patiently at the finish, then calmly escorted her to the first aid table.

There was another local connection, as former ESHS student and grad Jenny Purvis attended with her boyfriend, Pat Potempa. She snapped more pictures than the media, but stayed in the 90 degree heat for the entire 3:30.15 it took Pat to finish the race.

Jenny has finished her second year of medical school in Little Rock, and Pat just graduated from law school there. There was a lot of visiting while Pat was off biking through the woods.

When it was all over, Cross was happy with the first event of its kind in Eureka Springs, and said he planned to do it again next year. He also said he was pleased with the number of entries, 87, and felt that word of mouth would bring more for the 2007 event.

He will probably count on his family again, too, as his parents, Jack and Evelyn, and sister Jacquelyn, manned stations all day long in the blazing heat. Wonder what that payday will cost Nick?

The best part of the day was knowing that 87 superior athletes, their families and supporters, were exposed to a first-class event in Eureka Springs that will draw many back for another try at the Lake Leatherwood experience.

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