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Sunday, July 9, 2006 -- Richwood, WV
Scenic Mountain Triathlon (iPO Event Id#: 7257)
Story and photos by J.R. Petsko

[Details] [Coverage]

Pictures: [Set 1] [Set 2] [Set 3] [Set 4] [Set 5] [Set 6] [Set 7] [Set 8] [Set 9]
[Set 10] [Set 11] [Set 12] [Set 13]
[Overall Results] [Results by Class]

Past Coverage: [1998] [1999] [2000] [2001] [2004] [2005]

Photo by JR Petsko
Warming up for the swim
Sponsored by the Richwood Area Chamber of Commerce, the Scenic Mountain Triathlon enjoyed it's 21st year, which makes it West Virginia's oldest triathlon. Staged in the Cranberry Wilderness of Monongahela National Forest, the event always attracts a large number of families who gather to enjoy the scenery.

Unlike last years event, this years was free of bear sightings and Rainbow Family Gatherings, but was no less exciting. As it has for the previous 20 years, racers and spectators gathered at Summit Lake for the .5-mile swimming leg of the triathlon. The beauty of this area really lives up to the scenic part it's name. This wonderous mountain top lake exudes a peace that you won't find at events held near bigger cities. It's almost enough to make one forget about the grueling 24-mile race that lies ahead. Serenity was sure to pass once the racers began to prepare for the start.

Photo by JR Petsko
Crowds gather, swimmers ready
Though the day would end at a very nice 70 degrees, a little nip began the event, making the lake feel colder. It's chill brought athletes back to the reality that they where there to push their bodies to peak performance.

As the racers made their way into the water, the mayor of Richwood thanked all of those who came for event and wished them the best of luck. A few seconds later the horn sounded and they where off. As a mass of swimmers jockeyed for position in their efforts to make it acrossed the lake and back, I took off like a bullet to make it to my vehicle. I proceeded 17.1 mile along Rt. 39/55 to the next staging point. This, by the way, was the same route that the swimmers, who where soon to become cyclists, where about to take. This is where the word mountain comes into the event's name.

Photo by JR Petsko
Hitting the road, bike-leg
As the bikers hammered down the road from Summit Lake, they make their way onto what at first seems to be a nice steady upgrade on Route 39/55. That would all change 10-miles into the ride when they faced the climb that truly makes West Virginia racing unique. Climbing the 9 to 10 degree mountain road on the way to the Cranberry Mountain Nature Center split the field wide open.

Making the ride look effortless was Brandon Merritt of Morgantown, West Virginia who was first overall at the transition. Close behind Merritt was Wes Kessnick 15 seconds behind, and Robert Smith of Huntington, WV was 18 seconds behind the leader. That lead would be short lived.

Photo by JR Petsko
Running for the finish
One mile into the run the three where neck and neck, with a fourth runner, Gabriel Narduzzi coming up fast to join the leaders. Ahead of them was a 6.2 mile run, 3.1 miles to Cranberry Glades and 3.1 miles back to Cranberry Mountain Nature Center. This in itself would exhaust most people, but remember these athletes had already covered 17.6-miles over the most grueling terrain this state could throw at them.

As the crowd and I waited in anticipation, the first runner made his way over the final climb to the finish. It would be Robert Smith, who was third overall after the bike section. He fought his way back to first during the last leg and finished in a time of 1.40.45. Smith, who finished 2nd overall in 2005, cut his time down by 3 minutes to take the overall victory. In second place was Kessnick who in all the position swapping managed to hold on tight to second. Third position went to Narduzzi and Merritt helted on forth overall.

Photo by JR Petsko
Some serious ladies compete
The overall women's race was just as exciting. With Amy Robbins of Charlottesville, Viringia improving on her 3rd place finish in 2005 to take home the overall female victory. Robbins was followed closely by Cherie Witt in 2nd, and Kristi K. Quillen in 3rd.

The team composition went to the Elkins YMCA who put in a great performance in all three events to take home the overall team crown.

The course may have been tough on the racers, but the Richwood Chamber of Commerce made the participates forget all about it after they finished. Waiting for them afterwards was a post race meal like none I had ever seen. Can you say BBQ? Oh, yeah, no plain old box of bananas and oranges here.

Photo by JR Petsko
Friends from Patch Adam's Gesundheit! Institute
Racers where welcomed to the finish with grilled chicken and pasta salad, and that was just the beginning of the spread that was laid out before them.

As the races sat down to take part in the post-race feasting, one topic came up over and over again. "Did you see the people in tu-tus?" This was not mirage seen by an overexhausted triathlon racer. Three volunteers from Dr. Patch Adams's Gesundheit! Institute made the trip over from nearby Hillsboro, WV to participate and spread some cheer while doing it. Take a look at their picture (left) and you'll see what I am talking about.

My hat goes off to the Richwood Chamber of Commerce and the event staff for hosting one of the best events this state has to offer.