The swimmers burst out of the water at North Shore Pool to become cyclists, then runners. Along the way, fans — mostly family and friends — started recognizing the hues of the uniforms and cheered. More than 700 athletes ages 7 to 84 competed in Saturday's Meek and Mighty Triathlon, a minitriathlon precursor to today's 26th St. Anthony's event. Clearwater's Cody Sandford had the most impressive time. Sandford, 14, won the male 11- to 14-year-old category and was the category's top overall finisher in 24 minutes, 59 seconds, on a course that had a 200-yard swim, 5.4-mile bike ride and mile run (with slightly shorter distances for ages 10 and younger).
An age category by himself
Well after the 15-and-older division winners had crossed the finish line, Gene Lichter was chugging up the backstretch.
"The big thing for me was just being able to complete the race," Lichter said.
This was the Lichter's first triathlon. He said he decided to compete after reading about Ruth Gordon, who was 90 when she competed in last year's race. "I just said to myself, 'I can do that,' " said Lichter, 84, who lives in St. Petersburg during the winter and San Antonio, Texas, the rest of the time. Lichter started training in the past year. He completed the course in 1 hour, 16 minutes, 7 seconds. Then came his biggest surprise. He glanced at the leaderboard and noticed he had won his age group (80-84).
"My eyes got big," Lichter said. "That was a shock. Then I found out I was the oldest guy competing and the only competitor in my age group. Still, it was a nice reward."
St. Petersburg's Sandy Steer, 70, was the oldest female and won her age group (70-74) in 52:14.
Three years ago, Kent Gartin of Benton, Ark., was watching highlights of a local triathlon on TV when his son Logan tugged on his shirt. "My son kept telling me he wanted to run in one," Kent said. "I agreed to it, but I didn't know anything about them." The Gartins learned quickly. They started swimming, biking and running together. Then they competed in their first triathlon. "I figured one would be it," Keith said. "I asked Logan what he thought about it afterward." Logan's response: "When is the next one?" Now the Gartins are hooked. They compete in at least 10 triathlons a year. Saturday was their second straight Meek and Mighty. Keith, 39, won his age group (35-39) in 35:58. Logan was tops among 10-year-olds with a time of 20:20. Logan beat Kobee Alsopp of Clearwater by one second for the title.
It runs in the family
Stephanie Kistemaker, 15, of Largo won the 15-and-older female title (29:45). Her sisters, Jennifer, 12, and Rachel, 14, also did well. Jennifer won the 12-year-old age group (34:39). Rachel was second among 14-year-olds (30:30).
And the winner is …
Dale Brammal, 43, of Citrus Springs was the top male finisher in the 15-and-older category (28:32). Ciara Hopkins, 12, of Clermont was the overall female champion among 11-14 year olds. In the 7- to 10-year-old division (100-yard swim, 3.6-mile bike and half-mile run), Cape Coral's Santiago Corredor, 10, won the boys' race in 19:08. On the girls' side, Tampa's Alessa Sandusky, 10, won in 19:03.