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Clearwater triathlete cherishes finish with amily at St. Anthony's

Clearwater resident Carey Rowan had a little help as he neared the end of the 6.2-mile run that signaled the finish of Sunday's St. Anthony's Triathlon. Joining Rowan for the final few paces were his three sons, Reilly, 9, Hudson, 7, and Sloan, 1.

"There was no one around me at the finish, so my wife handed (the kids) over the fence for me," said Rowan, who finished 40th in the elite amateur division in 2:16:04. "I have a picture from a couple years ago where we did the same thing. It's probably my most cherished picture."

Reilly competed Saturday in the Meek & Mighty Triathlon, finishing fourth after moving into the 10-year-old division.

"I was thinking about seeing my little guys as I was getting close to the finish," Rowan said. "It's just such a good feeling knowing that they're going to be there."

Seeing double: As Laurel Wassner crossed the finish line in 2:10:59 to place 17th in the women's professional division, a familiar face stood off to the side, awaiting her arrival.

Wassner's identical twin, Rebeccah, crossed the line 10 minutes earlier in second.

It was the first time the two competed in the same race.

"I would always wait for her," said Rebeccah, a professional as well. "I would go back and try to run the last bit with her if I was allowed to."

The two 33-year-old triathletes plan to train together for upcoming events. Rebeccah lives in New York; Laurel lives just across the Hudson River in Hoboken, N.J.

"I don't think anybody else in the race could have felt what we were feeling," Laurel said. "It's pretty unique."

Stop, drop and roll: A handful of participants fell to the ground just before reaching the end of the triathlon and logrolled across the line.

Brian Duffy, 15, of Suwanee, Ga., said the finish paid homage to John Blais, a triathlete diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease before the 2005 Ironman in Hawaii. Debilitated and unable to use his left hand, Blais said that if he could get close enough to the finish line in that race, somebody could just logroll him over.

He reached the finish of the 2005 Ironman and rolled, as planned, across the line — but under his own power. Blais died of ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, in May 2007.

"I do it as sort of a tribute to him," said Duffy, who finished 22nd in the 15-19 age group.

Overcoming adversity: Tricia Downing, 39, of Denver took first in the women's physically challenged division in 3:20:24.

Downing suffered a spinal injury on a bicycle training ride and was paralyzed from the chest down in 2000 after a car cut her off, hurling her into the rear window and shattering her back.

Downing, who competes in a wheelchair, is a member of the physically challenged National Triathlon Team.

"Today was good," she said. "I got a personal record, I think. That's nice, especially because I didn't train for this event."

San Diego's Ryan Levinson was the top men's physically challenged finisher, coming in nearly 30 seconds ahead of Clearwater's David Schick.

Top local finishes: Ernesto Ayala of Tampa had the fastest time among bay area competitors. The 46-year-old finished in 1:58:50, 26th overall. Ayala took first in the men's novice category. Michelle Bonfe, 46, of Tampa had the quickest time for the women (2:12:19). Bonfe was the masters champion and placed 139th among all competitors, men and women.

Clearwater triathlete cherishes finish with amily at St. Anthony's 04/27/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 28, 2008 4:11pm]
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