Brian Harrington, a longtime Tampa Bay area triathlete and announcer at St. Anthony's Triathlon, was recently named president of the USA Triathlon board of directors. Harrington, 59, has three grown daughters and two granddaughters, several of whom are also accomplished triathletes. He has been a trial lawyer in St. Petersburg since returning from law school at Notre Dame in 1974. He did his first triathlon in 1989 after serving as race director for the early version of what is now the St. Anthony's Triathlon.
How has the local triathlon scene changed since you first started competing?
In 1989, we had approximately 500 athletes for the then-Tampa Bay Triathlon; at this year's St. Anthony's Triathlon, there will be 4,000 on Sunday, and another 800 in the Saturday kids' and first timers' race at North Shore Pool. USA Triathlon now sanctions over 2,500 races in the United States, and since 2000, triathlon has been an Olympic Sport.
Do you think triathlons play an important role nationally?
Since I've been representing the Florida region on the national board of directors, I've come to realize just how important our sport and our healthy lifestyle can be to our country, especially to its youth, which is in the midst of an obesity epidemic. People who are dedicated triathletes find their lifestyle is healthier, the people they interact with more positive, and are more successful in their careers.
Is Florida a player on the national triathlon circuit?
Florida is the only state with its own representative on the national board of directors and that doesn't even include the western portion of the panhandle, which is a part of another region. That's because we are a hotbed for the sport, having enough annual members in USA Triathlon to justify such representation.
How does our area rank?
The Tampa Bay area is itself a hotbed, having enough races throughout the region to allow athletes to race within driving distance of their homes nearly every weekend of the summer.
Has St. Anthony's helped put the Tampa Bay area on the international triathlon map?
St. Anthony's has repeatedly been selected as one of the top Olympic distance races in the world, and is perennially ranked as one of the top 10 races in the United States. We annually have one of the finest professional fields; the pros love racing here, and love the hospitality they receive from the home stay program provided by the St. Pete Mad Dogs Triathlon club. It is not just a top national race, but a destination race; regularly drawing age group athletes from nearly every state and 30 foreign countries, providing a nice financial boost to the community in a time between winter and summer visitors.
What about the future?
I see the sport and the lifestyle continuing to grow. The fastest growing group in USA Triathlon is our youth; college competition is also burgeoning, with several hundred universities now having triathlon clubs, including all the service academies.
What do you want to accomplish as president of USA Triathlon?
I hope to continue to take steps to enhance the growth of our sport at all levels; with an emphasis on helping our youth to learn the means to grow up healthy, both physically and emotionally; while developing through a new foundation the means to bring the fun and enjoyment of our sport to everyone in our country. Triathlon is the fastest-growing sport in the Olympic family; we are working to have additional Olympic competition, such as team scored competition, similar to the current collegiate team championships, selected as an additional Olympic event. We also have projects under way to assist the growth of the paratriathlon sport, to make it a part of the paralympics.
Terry Tomalin can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8808.