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Athletes converge on city for 10th Uniontown Triathlon

| Sunday, June 24, 2001

John McDermott has been on both sides of the starting line in preparing for a triathlon.

The Uniontown man has participated as an athlete, but his role this year is as co-chairman of the 10th annual Uniontown Triathlon, set for Saturday. Last year's triathlon brought 245 competitors.

McDermott and Capt. John Riley, a Uniontown Salvation Army corps officer, have been busy making final preparations for the swimming, biking and running events, centered on Uniontown Area High School pool and stadium.

They also are relying on the expertise of Dan Bryson, a Uniontown resident who has coordinated the nine previous triathlons. Bryson is serving as a consultant and mentor.

'I just wanted to turn it over to someone else,' Bryson said. 'It takes an awful lot of planning. There are some things you have to start doing in September. By January and February, you have got to get your mailings out. That's important because a lot of people plan their vacations around this event by coming back home to see their families and participate in the triathlon.'

The triathlon will have a staggered start. The swimming heats begin at the Uniontown Area High School pool at 6:30 a.m. After the competitors swim eight laps (200 yards), the racers get on their bikes and ride a 10.3-mile course.

After the bike ride, they return to the school bus port and begin a 4 &*#188;-mile run. McDermott said the relay teams usually start about 8 a.m.

The bike course had to be modified because of a closed bridge on Cinder Road.

'We have altered the bike course slightly to go up Fayette Street to Crossland and then onto Cinder Road,' McDermott said.

The registration fee is $30 for an individual and $15 for each member of a relay team. Deadline for registration is Tuesday.

'It's a very good, well-organized effort and there are a lot of great volunteers who help with this event,' McDermott said. 'The Asbury United Methodist Church Men's Club does a lot of volunteer efforts and they coordinate the pre-triathlon spaghetti dinner on Friday evening.'

Bryson said they are looking forward to using the stadium facilities.

'The stadium is all fixed up,' he said. 'Last year, it was all torn up and it's really nice now. We use the track and finish on the 50-yard line and have refreshments for the contestants.'

Last year's triathlon brought in $8,200.

'It's a big help to the Salvation Army here and Capt. Riley didn't want to let it go,' Bryson said. 'The popularity of the race has increased over the years. The first year we raised about $2,400.'

The Internet has helped to increase the number of registrations, McDermott said.

'We are really excited about this year's triathlon because it's our 10th year. It's challenging and makes people go out and run, bike and swim,' McDermott said. 'There is an impetus that makes them do it. They are concerned about their health, diet and weight and stamina.'

The previous nine triathlons have helped the Salvation Army with different needs, including its soup kitchen on East Fayette Street.

'The draw is the soup kitchen and helping the less fortunate. That was the original idea for the triathlon,' Riley said. 'So it does help a great deal. Not only does this help the Army with income needed for its mission ministry, it helps the Salvation Army promote good will.'

He said it's an event enabling 'people to meet people' from all walks of life.

'They get to run or bike through your community and see some of the needs they are sponsoring,' Riley said. 'They see impoverished homes. It gives them a good feeling of doing something to help others and it gives the Salvation Army a good feeling. It creates synergy for the army's mission in Uniontown.

'It's like energy that is pulling us together and it's almost like a fusion of energy,' he added.

'From the athletes' perspective, there are very few triathlons within the 50-mile drive,' McDermott said. 'Even though it's not as extensive as the Iron Man triathlon in Hawaii, this one is a good, introductory way of what a triathlon is about.

'The added benefit of making a donation going to the Salvation Army is a plus, but a lot of the participants are looking at it for themselves to train for a bigger triathlon or to say they have participated in a triathlon,' McDermott said.

Relay teams run the same course as the individuals, except there are three participants.

'We tried to keep everything that Dan (Bryson) had in place, but they have added one new category for relay team this year,' McDermott said. 'There are five categories which include an all-male category, all-female, a mixed combination, family team and the new business category. We are hoping to expand the business category eventually.'

Last year's event attracted visitors from eight states and participants from throughout the Fayette and Mon Valley regions.

'Some people want to come back and beat their own time,' Riley said. 'It's like a big family reunion and you can see the brotherhood. We try to make it as safe as possible.'

For additional information on the triathlon, call the Salvation Army office at 724-437-2031.

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