Darkhorse McDonough, favorite Wickard win Valpo Tri titles
By Josh Lichtenfeld Post-Tribune correspondent July 14, 2012 11:26PM
Chris Wickard and son Ryan cross the finish line to finish first overall in the womans division during the 10th annual Valparaiso Triathalon held at Rogers Park on July 14, 2012. This will be Wickard's 6th straight win at the event. | Charles Mitchell~For Sun-Times Media
Find a list of Saturday’s Valparaiso Triathlon finishers on page 33
Updated: August 17, 2012 7:02AM
VALPARAISO — You can call it a victory that seemingly went unnoticed.
Not only was this year’s champion of the 10th annual Valparaiso Triathlon at Rogers-Lakewood Park in Valparaiso, Matthew McDonough, not a projected favorite — the Chicago resident has never won before and it’s been two years since his only appearance in 2009 when he placed third — but thanks to eight different waves of competitors (an additional wave was added to clean up congestion), the 31-year-old didn’t even cross the finish line first.
Runner-up John Polomchak of Crown Point actually crossed the line first.
Nonetheless McDonough, who has two second-place finishes in other triathlons this summer, wasn’t complaining about appearances in his first win of the season.
“It feels great, real happy, just what I wanted to do” he said after topping the field of more than 400 with a time of 59:16, a victory of 21 seconds. “It’s kind of fun to be a little bit of a darkhorse, sure.”
On the women’s side, local standout Chris Wickard doesn’t exactly come in under the radar.
The 42-year-old Crown Point resident continued in her triathlon dominance by grabbing a sixth straight Valparaiso women’s crown in a time of 1:03.35 (sixth overall), beating out former champ Sarah Arnold of Valparaiso for the third consecutive year.
In McDonough’s last outing in Valparaiso, he finished behind Polomchak, who’s never won but now has two runner-up finishes. Both runners lost to three-time Valparaiso champion Gregg Cromer.
But this year neither Cromer, who finished runner-up last year, nor fellow Portage native Jordan Bailey, who also has three victories — including last year — took part in the event.
Maintaining strength on the bike portion, where he led for part of the 2009 race, and improving on running paid off.
“In these sprint races, the bike is the majority of the time,” said McDonough, who’s able to race with a quality bike because of his connections as a bicycle parts engineer. “I try to hang on in the sprint race.”
Polomchak passed third-place finisher Robert Fozkos at the two-mile point in the run to go out strong.
“We hit the first hill and I had him in sight and I just went from there,” he said.
Wickard is rebounding from early physical setbacks, having also recently won at the Warsaw Triathlon.
“I’m feeling better than I have,” she said. “This year, I’ve been fighting injury after injury.”
Arnold is also in the midst of a comeback after breaking her right ankle. But now, weeks back into running, she’s gearing up for an ironman triathlon in September.
“I felt OK; I felt alright,” she said.