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Fennelly: St. Anthony's Triathlon is about fun, family from first place to last

ST. PETERSBURG — Sunday, the 34th annual St. Anthony's Triathlon held another county fair downtown. No matter your time, it was a good time.

The men's winner, Olympic-distance division, first across the line, was 33-year-old professional triathlete Cameron Dye from Boulder, Colo. who captured his third consecutive St. Anthony's title to go with his 2010 win here. The women's winner was pro Lauren Goss, 29, also of Boulder. Both Dye and Goss took home $10,000.

And hours later, under a baking sun, the last to cross the finish line was Julie Walker, 62, of Atlanta. A shortened swim (because of choppy water), a 40K bike ride and 10K run — and a smile that never left Walker's face as she raised her arms.

From start to finish, from first to last, a wonderful time.

On St. Anthony's day, before the swim, there was a moment of silence for two men who championed this event: Tampa Bay Times outdoors editor Terry Tomalin, who passed away last May and who told so many beautiful St. Anthony's stories, and the late Jack Shuten, a member of the St. Pete Mad Dogs Triathlon Club. It was about family.

After Dye finished in roughly 1 hour and 40 minutes, he spoke of his love for this triathlon, and not just because he always wins it. He has competed here for nine years.

"I love coming back," Dye said. "Before the race, we're all standing around (the transition area). After the race, we're all sitting around eating. The inclusive thing is definitely a cool part of the sport. Coming back here nine years, I know tons of people in St. Pete. I see the same age groupers every year."

Eric Lagerstrom, 27, of Gresham, Ore., finished second. He and Dye race all over the world as professionals. Lagerstrom will compete in Japan in two weeks.

"This is infinitely more fun,'' Lagerstrom said. "Japan is like super high pressure. Everybody is looking over their shoulders. Here, everybody is giving each other high fives. The atmosphere in Japan is like you're going into a title fight. Here, it's one of the best events in the world, but it's a cool, cool party where you meet awesome people."

Awesome people.

Meet Christina Miller, 31, from Orlando. She ran with her husband, Jeff, and was cheered on by her cardiologist, Dr. Jay Fricker from UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville. Fourteen years ago, Christina Miller had a heart transplant. This is her second year of racing. She explained her secret:

"Perseverance, a good attitude and tremendous faith."

Miller and her husband carried a "Donate Life" banner across the finish line. When they were married in 2012, Dr. Fricker got the first dance with Christina.

"We have some things in the works," Christina Miller said of her upcoming race schedule. She turned to Dr. Fricker. "We have to talk about it."

The doctor grinned.

Meet Lin Dolen from Treasure Island. She was the next-to-last person to cross the finish line Sunday, roughly four hours behind Lauren Goss. Dolen will soon turn 57. She was the picture of triumph as she fought her way to the finish line. Dolen, competing in the paralympic division, battles cerebral palsy. No matter. Sunday was her 16th St. Anthony's race. She's an inspiration.

"People tell me that, but they inspire me, the fans along the way," Dolen said.

Cameron Dye jumped in the water at 10 minutes to 7 on Sunday morning. Last across the line, at 1 in the afternoon, was Julie Walker. Racing in the Olympic novice division, Walker began her race about an hour after Lin Dolen.

She is a tax attorney and a former judge. She first came to St. Anthony's in 2009. In 2010, she had a kidney transplant.

The following year, she lost her other kidney to disease. She returned to St. Anthony's in 2013. Sunday was her first try at the Olympic distance. She crossed the line moments before the course was closed. Just in time. But a wonderful time.

"It's about finishing," Walker said.

Winners, from the first to the last.

Contact Martin Fennelly at mfennelly@tampabay.com or (813) 731-8029. Follow @mjfennelly

Fennelly: St. Anthony's Triathlon is about fun, family from first place to last 04/30/17 [Last modified: Sunday, April 30, 2017 11:42pm]
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