Jordan Bailey, Laura Nietert take Valparaiso Triathlon titles
By Anthony D. Alonzo Post-Tribune correspondent July 13, 2013 9:46PM
Jordan Bailey, 25, is first to cross the finish line at the Valparaiso Triathlon at Rogers-Lakewood Park just north of the city on Saturday, July 13. Bailey's time in the three-sport event of 56:58 was nearly two minutes faster than the runner-up.
Updated: August 15, 2013 7:07AM
Among the 324 participants who finished the 11th annual Valparaiso Triathlon on Saturday, perennial favorites and local challengers couldn’t help but keep an eye on the review mirror and strive to keep thoughts of their most feared competitors at bay.
On a day that many described as having ideal weather — clear skies and mild temperatures — 218 male and 106 female triathletes completed the swim-cycle-run event held at Valparaiso’s Rogers-Lakewood Park.
Many of triple-sport athletes offered praise concerning the organization of the event, which meant that with few distractions, participants were alone with themselves and their thoughts. Claiming his fourth Valparaiso Tri crown since 2008, Portage High School graduate Jordan Bailey had one fewer person to worry about on Saturday.
Bailey dashed across the finish line at 56:58, claiming the overall event title and besting last year’s winner by nearly two minutes. He also improved on his 2010 win, which was 57:00.
Without his buddy and triathlon rival Gregg Cromer participating in this year’s race, Bailey said that his focus was still like a laser. When Cromer visits from his South Carolina home, he’s always a threat; he won three straight event titles starting in 2006.
“I talked to (Cromer) earlier in the week and he said just the way his work schedule had panned out he wasn’t able to make it back,” said Bailey, who actually wanted to see him at the event. “Had he been here, having that in the back of my mind, he would have been a motivator to go just as fast.”
The 25-year-old had stunned some in the crowd who were evidently not prepared to see a runner headed in another direction about seven minutes ahead of the next male participant. Bailey had a strong swim and a quick cycling performance. However, Matt McDonough, last year’s overall winner, narrowed Bailey’s lead and finished 1:48 (overall) behind him.
“My summer sport has been triathlons,” said Bailey, with his grandfather, mother, sister and uncle on hand. “Having all of those miles under my legs has definitely been beneficial.”
Eighteen-year-old Valparaiso senior Kevin Mangel rounded out the top-3 finishers with his 1:01:20 time. Mangel, who trains with his hometown friend and classmate Adam Sandberg, was neck and neck with the 17-year-old for much of the race, outpacing him on foot. Sandberg finished fifth with 1:01:32.
Valparaiso resident Laura Nietert, 25, appeared to the crowd as the first female to complete the race. Catching her breath she said she never lost focus on the idea that being forewarned is being forearmed.
Her concerns were that region tri standout and six-time women’s champion Chris Wickard was right around the corner — somewhere. But in Wickard’s absence from the race, Nietert said that just the image of the rival passing on her bike was enough to spur her on.
Nietert and supporters would learn that 42-year-old Tobey Yeates, of Western Springs, Ill., edged out the hometown athlete 1:11:24 to 1:12:09. Yeates competes wearing a prosthetic device on her right arm.
With competitors starting their swimming released in eight “waves” of participants, those actually crossing the finish line first were not necessarily ahead of others.
“I’d say the bike (segment) is the best because I see all the guys in front of me and I really want to pass them,” Nietert said. “The worst is the run because you know you’re going straight out and straight back — you know exactly how far.”