Teamwork highlights Kerr Lake Triathlon; Dixon takes top honors
The Henderson YMCA “The Y’s Have It” relay trio didn’t have much time for team bonding. Chris Leas, Bobbie Lequire and Valerie Bryant were introduced to each other on Saturday before competing in Sunday’s annual Kerr Lake Triathlon won by Raleigh’s Dwayne Dixon.
Chris kicked it off with the 1,500-meter swim, setting the stage for Bryant’s 40-kilometer bike ride before Lequire completed the 10-kilometer run at Bullocksville Park.
The YMCA squad recorded a third-place finish out of eight relay teams, posting a time of 2:49:16 although the results didn’t seem to be the most important aspect of the race for this bunch.
“I think that’s the big thing, the fact that it’s a fundraiser,” Leas said of the Vance County Relay for Life event benefitting the American Cancer Society. “And obviously with the economy, anytime you can get people into Vance County and this area, that’s a good thing.”
Leas, Lequire and Bryant are each employed by the YMCA.
Leas, 33, was motivated to organize the team after serving as a lifeguard at last year’s triathlon. He took off Sunday with the third wave of swimmers donning white caps. The scheduled 8 a.m. start time was adjusted because of high winds that shifted the placement of guide buoys, creating a choppy course for the field.
Leas, a former Southern Vance swimming coach, always instructed his teams not to worry about the competition.
“Any racing sport, you just have to go and do your best,” said Leas. “You’re not controlling anything else anybody else is doing. You have to do what you can do and push your body to its limits. Do your best.”
Each member said being part of a team provided extra motivation.
Bryant, 40, teaches spin classes at the YMCA.
“It’s awesome to be a part of a team,” she said. “It makes you push harder when your teammates are counting on you.”
Lequire, an aerobics instructor, likes to run and swim, but doesn’t enjoy the biking segment.
“The camaraderie,” said Lequire, 42, “You know someone is there waiting for you, cheering you on. That’s the good part of it.”
The top relay team finished the race in a little over two hours and 13 minutes.
Dixon was first individually with a time of 2:01:54, followed by Robert VanGraafeiland of Rolesville, who finished at 2:02:34.
Raleigh’s Danielle Baker was the first female under the inflatable finish area with a mark of 2:18:31.
VanGraafeiland was the first person out of the water and led the field following his bike race, but Dixon passed him on foot as they approached the five-mile marker.
“I was really happy with it,” said Dixon, 27. “Got out of the water and had one of my best swims. The bike was really fast going out for the first 12 or 13 miles. Pretty brutal headwind coming back in. Got onto the run, felt good. Just hunted this guy down. It’s always fun to have somebody to chase out there.”
Dixon is growing accustomed to chasing VanGraafeiland, 41. Sunday marked their fifth time competing against each other on the TrySports Triathlon series trail.
“I knew he was having a stellar bike and I knew I had my work cut out for me on the run which I always do with him,” said VanGraafeiland, who swam for Maryland and UNC Wilmington. “He’s going to track me down on that run and sure enough he did.”
Dixon moved to the U.S. from South Africa when he was 12. He played club ice hockey at N.C. State, has been a swim instructor for the last eight years and coaches triathlon competitors.
It was the first time Dixon and VanGraafeiland competed in the Kerr Lake Triathlon.
“I love the event,” said Dixon. “The TrySports series puts on awesome races. All the staff are super friendly. You couldn’t ask for better weather out here.”
“The volunteers here are unbelievable,” VanGraafeiland added. “Top-notch with what they bring in to help support with Setup Events.”
Henderson resident Sandra Parham said this was her 10th time volunteering at the Kerr Lake Triathlon. She lost her mother and brother to cancer.
“That’s my motivation,” said Parham.
Parham and Kimberly Emory of Creedmoor directed bikers as they trekked up the Bullocksville Park hill from the lake and then back to the bike area to start the run.
“It brings everybody together really, working for one cause here,” said Emory. “It’s good that the relay fundraisers stay in this community.”
Organizer Pam Norwood said the Ironman triathlon in Raleigh may have affected participation. Kerr Lake’s event welcomed 135 total competitors, down from nearly 200 last year. Norwood said changing the date of next year’s event is being explored.
“It was little tougher on the athletes this year,” said Norwood. “The water was really choppy, bad wind out on the ride made it a little harder than normal, but they still loved it.”
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