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Connellsville triathlon may become biathlon

Evan R. Sanders | Daily Courier
A swollen Youghiogheny River could change the upcoming triathlon to a biathlon this Saturday in Connellsville.

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Friday, July 12, 2013, 7:03 p.m.

High, fast-moving water in the Youghiogheny River may change the format of Saturday's triathlon in Connellsville.

“New Haven Hose is in touch with the Army Corps of Engineers who monitor the river in real time,” said Vernon Ohler of the recreation board. “The dam is high. Water was being held back as rescuers searched for the body of a missing rafter at Ohiopyle. The dam was actually very, very high for what it should be over the Fourth of July holiday.

“Now that his body has been recovered, water is being let out, plus all the storms; it's bad,” he added.

There are multiple things that are causing problems that will be considered. Visibility is at zero. The current is swift. The buoys and roping that are needed for the triathlon competitors may not be able to be put in place or hold if they were.

“The river is so murky that if there was a problem. There is no visibility, and now we've put our first responders and safety people in danger,” Ohler said.

In talking with those who have inquired, Ohler is giving them information that there may not be a swim at Saturday's event; he has heard from a man in New York and several from the Pittsburgh area.

“Many of the local triathletes consider the swim as their weakest segment. Those who travel from a distance could be disappointed,” Ohler said. “They also acknowledge that anytime you are in a natural water venue, other than a lake, this problem is not uncommon; it does arise.”

“This is basically a situation similar to several weeks ago when the river could not be used for Braddock's Crossing,” said Bob Topper Sr. of New Haven Hose Company. “With all the rain and flooding, it depends on how the river is presenting at that time — swift water, brown water, we can't do anything in.”

“New Haven Hose Company officials have the link to the Army Corps of Engineers, and so New Haven will make the call,” Ohler said. “They will have the final say on whether we're getting into the river or not.

“I take their word as gold as far as safety goes,” he continued. “This is an event. It's for recreation. People have to realize that. We are not going to put anybody in harm's way. Safety first.”

“Plan B for the swimming part of our triathlon will be to do a biathlon format, which is run 2 miles, bike 10 miles, then finish with a 3-mile run,” said Greg Lincoln of the recreation board. “The info from the Army Corps of Engineers indicated that with runoff and what they release from the dam, the Yough River could be at flood stage on Saturday.”

“We are not ruling out the swimming portion of the triathlon, but it doesn't look good,” Ohler said.

A triathlon or biathlon will be held, beginning at 9 a.m. at Yough Park. For those not registered, registration is at 8 a.m. Breakfast will be served from 7:30-10:30 a.m. by St. James Catering.

Bands will start playing on the Yough Park stage at 11 a.m. Music will continue until 6 p.m. Recreation board members will be selling 50/50 plus raffle tickets for two Jimmy Buffett tickets to next Thursday's show in Burgettstown.

“The cornhole tourney starts at 1 p.m. We are hoping for a good turnout,” Lincoln said.

Nancy Henry is a freelance writer.

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