Local News

Heartland triathlon to be held this weekend

SEBRING - For some of the participants in this weekend's Heartland Triathlon, that it's taking place partly on Father's Day has special significance. One of those participants is Mike Lee of Sebring, who will be joined by his 23-year-old daughter, Whitney Lee. "That's my Father's Day present," Mike Lee said. The day is also important to Alana Gordon, whose father, Dr. Stephen Gordon, a past participant in triathlons and similar events, died in January 2012. Gordon, who is excited about the doing the more strenuous Olympics category for the triathlon for the first time, said she's carrying on her father's legacy.
"He was my motivating factor in all aspects in life and still is," she said. "He participated in a few Ironmans and other smaller races here and in Clermont and helped with the setup for this race for many years." "I hope to continue with this race in years to come in hopes of keeping his spirit alive within this event," she added." Organizers for the eighth Heartland Triathlon on June 15 and 16 expect around 600 participant in the event that has two divisions for adults along with divisions for children ages 6 to 10 and 11-15. The event has an impact on Highlands County's economy. Kenilworth Lodge is completely filled up for the weekend and Inn on the Lakes and Residence Inn have a lot of bookings, employees said. Many of the participants travel from all over the state to attend the event. One of those is Ken Junkins, who has traveled 100 miles from the Orlando area every year to participate. Junkins, who said he wins or comes out second in his age group in the 50s every year, added that he comes back because of the quality of the event and how good of a job Cherie Patrick Starr and other organizers do. "They make everyone feel important," he said. He said he competes in various events and that most of the 20 members of the team will participate this year. "Some guys go on fishing trips and some go on golf trips," he said. "We go on triathlon trips." Team members are serious about doing well in the event, he said. "We train hard. It's not something we take lightly." Mike Lee said he and his daughter take the event less seriously, as far as trying to win. He said he started out looking at the event as primarily a way to help with his fitness. "I had come to a place in my life where I was tired of being overweight," he said. After having participated in several triathlons, he and his daughter try to get the most fun from the event and spend time together. "We never take it super seriously," Whitney Lee said. She and her father agree that the swimming portion of the event is the most challenging for them. For Gordon, the most challenging part is "transitioning from the bike to the run, and getting my legs used to a different type of movement," she said. "I usually do OK when I find a good rhythm." The four divisions will involve different challenges. The kids, ages 6-10, division will involve a 100-yard swim, a 3-mile bike trek and a run for a half mile. The kids, ages 11-15, division, will involve a 200-yard swim, a 6-mile bike trek and a 1-mile run. The Sprint Distance Race and Talent ID Series events for adults includes a .25-mile swim, a 14-mile bike trek and a run of 3.1 miles. The Olympic Distance Race for adults includes a .93 mile swim, a 24.8 mile bike trek and a 6.2-mile run. For more information on the event go to www.heartlandtri.org. jmeisel@highlandstoday.com (863) 386-5834