Lower than expected turnout for triathlon didn’t hamper fun

Winner of the Big Horn Canyon Triathlon, Ladell Merritt, races toward the staging area on his bicycle on Saturday, July 19, at Horseshoe Bend.
Winner of the Big Horn Canyon Triathlon, Ladell Merritt, races toward the staging area on his bicycle on Saturday, July 19, at Horseshoe Bend.

The annual Big Horn Canyon Triathlon took place on Saturday in conjunction with the Big Horn Lake Celebration at Horseshoe Bend. Triathletes of all experience levels swam, biked and ran the scenic course for the fifth year in a row.
Ladell Merritt dominated the event with a time of 1:07.33 in the men’s division. His nearest competitor, Trent Hooper, came in about five minutes behind him with a time of 1:12:00. Organizer Ben Zeller placed fifth this year out of the 16 adult men participating with a time of 1:23.37. He was also first place in his age category.
Merritt was modest about his win, noting that all an athlete needs is a little “hiccup” and even someone far behind can catch up quickly. Merritt, a physical therapist at North Big Horn Hospital, rides his bike to work in Lovell from his home in Powell a few times a week. He also swims and runs on a regular basis and likes to compete in longer events. Merritt, who routinely beats athletes half his age, said knowing how to pace oneself makes a big difference.
“I think I’m as fast as I ever was in spite of the fact that I’m over 40,” he said. “When I was younger, I used to fade at the end a lot.”
In the women’s division, Harriet Baker of Sheridan smoked the field with a time of 1:25.46. Her nearest opponent, Ruth Dye, placed second with a time of 1:29.11. Mary Owen was hot on her heels with a third-place time of 1:29.27.
This was the third time Baker participated in a triathlon and it was her first time winning. She said she really enjoyed the scenery and thought the volunteers were fantastic. Baker is 46 years old and has two grown children. She said she enjoys traveling to different locations to participate in triathlons and especially enjoyed seeing the canyon for the first time.
In the youth division, which was a shorter course, Brent Snyder, 15, placed first with a time of 45.13. Second place went to Coy Trainor with a time of 1:01.04.
Though involved in many other sports like cross-country, basketball and track, it was Snyder’s first time participating in a triathlon. He said he was just hoping to finish and was surprised to win. He said the hardest part was the swim, since he didn’t really train for it.
The Zeller/Doughty team made up of Emily Doughty and Daniel and Molly Zeller placed first with a time of 1:21.04. The team’s nearest competitors came in nearly 10 minutes behind them.
The event included divisions for men, women and individual youth, as well as teams for adults and kids under the age of 16. Turnout was much lighter than expected this year, with organizer Zeller reporting less than half of last year’s participants. He said he wasn’t sure why the turnout was so low. It’s usually a very popular event.
The youth division included a 400-yard swim, a six-mile bike ride, followed by a 1.5-mile run. The adult race included an 800-yard swim, a 10.6-mile bike ride and a 3.2-mile run, making it a sprint distance triathlon.
Participants, their families and spectators enjoyed free boat rides on Big Horn Lake after the event, provided by members of Friends of BigHorn Lake and other volunteers. Many took advantage of an afternoon of fun in the sun, having picnics and enjoying the swim beach.
Complete results can be found at http://bhlaketriathlon.webs.com/.

By Patti Carpenter