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Leetsdale Ironman competing for a good cause

| Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, 9:29 p.m.

For the fourth consecutive year, Leetsdale triathlete Jeremy Cornman will raise money for a local nonprofit while competing at the Ironman World Championship, to be held Oct.13 in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

Cornman, 33, and three other qualifiers are soliciting pledges from family, friends and businesses. Proceeds will go to Ballou Skies, which is devoted to raising awareness of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a form that strikes boys.

Ty Ballou of Ben Avon founded the nonprofit several years ago in honor of his son, Ryan, 25, who was diagnosed with Duchenne when he was 5.

After raising money by himself in 2009, Cornman formed a team that holds fundraisers throughout the year. Over the past four years, Cornman and his teammates have raised $150,000, Ballou said.

Cornman said the team now has 16 members.

Joining Cornman at the Ironman World Championship will be his wife, Jocelyn, as well as Joe Vallese of Moon and Chad Holderbaum of Irwin.

Jocelyn Cornman, 33, will compete for the third consecutive year. Vallese, 42, and Holderbaum, 32, also have competed in the past.

The four will be among nearly 1,800 competitors who will run 26.2 miles, swim 2.4 miles and ride a bike for 112 miles, all in one day.

Jeremy Cornman finished last year in a personal-best 9 hours, 19 minutes and 39 seconds. The championship record is 8:03.56, set by an Australian last year.

“Your goal always is to finish (the championship),” Cornman said. “Helping Blue Skies gives you double incentive.”

The nonprofit provides bright blue uniforms that Ballou said were easy to spot when he and his son attended last year's championship, when six team members competed.

“You could clearly see all the athletes from start to finish,” Ballou said.

Cornman learned about the nonprofit while competing with Ballou on a masters swim team at the Sewickley YMCA.

“Ty approached me and asked whether I could help,” said Cornman, who has competed as a triathlete for 13 years. “I told him I would be honored to do so.”

“I'm half the athlete that Ty is,” Ballou said. “As phenomenal as he is, it's more phenomenal what he and his wife have done for the charity.”

Cornman and his teammates plan to leave for Hawaii on Saturday to acclimate themselves.

“We'll be tapering our training so we're rested,” he said. “It's a beautiful setting for a championship.

“We all love going there.”

The Ironman World Championship has been held annually in Hawaii since 1978.

Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.

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