New location a big hit with triathletes this weekend

A new challenging course, an individual rather than group start on the swim, a cross country running trail and a high-tech timing system were changes embraced by participants of the Bighorn Canyon Triathlon held at Barry’s Landing last weekend.

The triathlon, which took place at Horseshoe Bend in previous years, attracted many familiar faces, along with a few new participants. Organizer Ben Zeller, who took part in the race, said though the course was a bit more challenging for many, the feedback he received from athletes after the race was very positive. Zeller placed fifth in the men’s division at 1:40:49.

Racing Turtles team member Michelle Croft of Lovell cruises along the Barry’s Island trail during the third state of the Bighorn Canyon Triathlon Saturday. This year’s triathlon featured spectacular views of the lake and canyon. David Peck photo
Racing Turtles team member Michelle Croft of Lovell cruises along the Barry’s Island trail during the third state of the Bighorn Canyon Triathlon Saturday. This year’s triathlon featured spectacular views of the lake and canyon.
David Peck photo

Zeller said he made the decision to switch from a group to individual start on the 800-yard swim after driftwood and other debris was discovered in the swim’s start area several days prior to the event. To avoid the debris, swimmers started the event by diving, or in some cases jumping, off the dock one-by-one, while Wyo-Timing’s automated system recorded each start time and subtracted the short timed intervals in between swimmers. Zeller said this was only possible because of a new timing system used by event timers to meticulously record the individual times of athletes via a waterproof chip strapped to one ankle. The ankle chip recorded the times of athletes at various points along the course as they passed through electronic recording areas set up along the course. He said it was his first time employing Wyo-Timing to help at the event and he was very pleased with the results, which were available almost on the heels of the last runner to cross the finish line and very accurate.

Zeller said, though the debris was actually cleared prior to the race, he made the decision to go ahead with the individual timed start anyway. He said the system was a big hit with the swimmers and he was glad he made that decision.

“Actually, the Park Service did a great job of clearing the driftwood from the course before the race, but we went ahead anyway with the individual start, which we couldn’t have done without Wyo-Timing’s great system,” said Zeller. “It worked out great. People seemed to really like it, too.”

The climb from the boat launch area where the swim took place to the transition area located above in the parking area was much steeper than most were accustomed to, causing even the most elite athletes to walk, not run, to the transition area.

Compared to the steep out and mostly downhill back of the Horseshoe Bend course, the bike course at Barry’s Landing was much more “rolling” in nature overall. Zeller said he thought it was a lot less boring but still presented the challenge of a steep descent and lots of curves, keeping most cyclists attentive to the challenge.

The cross-country Barry’s Island running course presented a new type of challenge, as well, for many of the athletes, since most running courses at triathlon events are on paved surfaces. Zeller said many reported to him they enjoyed the spectacular scenic views along the way.

Sixty-four athletes participated compared to 55 the previous year at the event held at Horseshoe Bend. Zeller said he hopes to alternate the course for the event each year, hosting it at Horseshoe Bend one year and Barry’s Landing the next.

Powell resident Ladell Merritt, a well known physical therapist at North Big Horn Hospital, won the men’s solo division at 1:21:56. He also had the fastest overall time of all participants in the event. His nearest competitor, Sean Phelps of Billings, came in a few minutes behind him at 1:23:11. Ladell’s son Alan came in third place with a time of 1:31:21.

Kaley Burns of Saint Paul, Minn. took first place in the women’s division at 1:31:00. She placed fourth overall.  Ladell’s wife Jeanna Merritt came in second at 1:44:55. Tenika Earley came in third at 1:49:36.

Daniel Merritt, Ladell’s son, was the only competitor in the youth division with a time of 1:31:27. The youth course was considerably shorter than the adult course.

The only youth team to compete, “Team Spinkly” of Cowley Richard Spann and Thomas Hinckley), had a time of 1:02:23.

The “Smith Smack Down” team from Greybull (Mae and Dusty Smith) won the adult division at 1:36:10. The “Atomic Tangerines” from Powell (Tanya Bonner and Angie Spann) came in second place at 1:46:19. The “Racing Turtles” from Lovell (Michelle Croft, Tyler Byrd and Rob Croft) placed third at 1:58:02.

Eight adult teams participated in the race.


Solo Men: Ladell Merritt 1:21:56, Sean Phelps 1:23:11, Alan Merritt 1:31:21, Jared Dalebout 1:37:55, Ben Zeller 1:40:29, Jared Rude 1:46:03, Gunnar Hill 1:46:51, Steve Unsworth 1:48:41, Gregory Hirst 1:48:49, Chad thornton 1:52:04, Zebulon Rino 1:52:06, Seth Parthenheimer 1:53:17, Chad Trebby 1:58:11, Daniel Lavy 1:58:24, Jason Dye 1:59:25, Adam Sutcliffe 1:59:39, Erik Olson 2:10:57 and Bo Laughery 2:45:01.

Solo Women: Kaley Burns 1:31:00, Jeanna Merritt 1:44:55, Tenika Eardley 1:49:36, Stephanie Zier 1:53:57, Kaycee Laughery 2:16:23, Margaret Mcatee 2:33:19, Beth Bischoff 2:42:06 and Cheryl Miller 2:46:17.

Solo Youth: Daniel Merritt 1:31:27 (only one participant).

Youth Teams: Team Spinkley (Richard Spann and Thomas Hinckley) 1:02:23 (only one team participating).

Adult Teams: Smith Smack Down (Mae and Dusty Smith) 1:36:10, Atomic Tangerines (Tanya Bonner and Angie Spann) 1:46:19, Racing Turtles 1:58:02 (Michelle Croft, Tyler Byrd and Rob Croft), Team Lynn (Justin and Derrick Lynn and Aidan Jacobsen) 2:22:48 and Crazy4TRI-ing (LaFonda Humphreys, Marianne Grant and Sandra Hendershot) 2:33:36.

By Patti Carpenter