Leon’s Triathlon another success on Wolf Lake
By Anthony D. Alonzo Post-Tribune correspondent June 2, 2013 7:22PM
Leon Wolek (center), founder of the Leon's World Fastest Triathlon, greets competitor Charles Arnold of Mettawa, Ill., prior to the competition held at Wolf Lake in Hammond, Ind., Sunday, June 2, 2013. | Guy Rhodes~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 4, 2013 6:51AM
HAMMOND — At the 30th running of Leon’s Triathlon on Sunday, event founder Leon Wolek met nearly every participant as they crossed the finish line. His warm greetings came as the triathletes began their cool down, with many later shivering in the day’s misty conditions.
Wolf Lake Park played host to several hundred Leon’s participants, as well as scores of vendors and onlookers. At the Hammond park’s pavilion, the temperature held in the low 50s from military-themed opening ceremonies to the triathlon awards presentation.
The 2013 Leon’s, a USA Triathlon national qualifying event, was newly-paired with the Chicagoland Tri Series and attracted many suburban Illinois competitors. It also served as the Best of the U.S. national championship, a series that hosts amateur state champions.
Wolek said it is a dedicated group of volunteers that helped the complex event run like clockwork.
“It’s pretty humbling,” Wolek said. “Everything about this event is really special. It’s the people around us that made it what it is. ... That’s how I look at it: it’s just this massive team that keeps pushing (Leon’s).”
Into the park a cutting wind from the northeast blew cold breezes that hinted of the nearby heavy industry. Wolf Lake’s waters remained choppy and steam rose from its surface as some triathletes sang the praises of the warmer water.
Still, times were comparable to those of last year’s event, with the best overall mark being only about 1:30 slower this time around.
Best of the U.S. competitors went first, then waves of team–affiliated and independent amateurs followed in the start of the swim segment.
Colin Riley of Cincinnati said the 0.9-mile swim didn’t propel him to victory — he came out of the lake in the fifth spot. But then during the 24.8 miles of cycling he pedaled to the front. Overtaking Adam Zucco on the 6.2-mile run, he didn’t look back much as he went on to notch an overall best time of 1:52:05.
“I felt absolutely great on the run,” Riley, 25, said. “I think that’s what made the difference in the end.”
Riley gave a thumbs-up to the course, which blended scenery including a conservation area, residential neighborhoods and industry.
“It was fine, there were a few tight turns and on the second lap it got a little busy with the other people on the course. The wind was pretty tough on the freeway portion.”
Also participating in Best, Tennessee resident Kirsten Sass, 33, lead all females with a 2:05:40.
Among non-Best amateurs, Jason West of Breinigsville, Penn. swam, cycled and ran to the top time, 1:53:21. Jennifer Garrison, of Naperville, Ill. was first among women with a 2:07:56.
Zucco, last year’s No. 3 overall finisher, fell back one spot to No.4 in this year’s Leon’s. The 38-year-old Elburn, Ill. resident coaches Team TBC, a group that was missing a couple of previous top-5 finishers due to competing triathlons in other parts of the country.
“I’m part of a different team than (today’s winners), but we’ve all raced together for years,” said Zucco. “I asked Colin (Riley) if I could draft off him on the swim and he said, ‘sure.’ Then, I tried to help him in the second part of the event.”
Other notable finishes by Northwest Indiana-based participants include a No. 8 (2:18:24) among women for Sarah Arnold of Valparaiso. Griffith’s Jamie Beal, a NWITRI member, led all 35- to 39-year-old women with a 2:30:25. Kathleen Hrugy of Crown Point placed second in the 55 to 59 age group with her 3:00:08.
Kyle Kerr of Porter finished third among 20- to 22-year-old men, and Hammond’s Bob Cavallo captured a second place in the 65 to 69 class.
Among Region teams, Team Loopy placed second in the co-ed recreational class (2:36:02) followed by Team Lake County Divers in third (2:54:14).
Recreational male teams Vinke/Price/Oster of Griffith and Team Robertsdale of Hammond placed second and third in their category.