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From all walks of life... // Come the Triathletes

Consider this random rollcall: a wildlife biologist who has run with a deer to a former Tampa Bay Bucs lineman to the current Ironman Hawaii Triathlon "Iron King" to a New Hampshire judge to a St. Petersburg family _ dad, mom and three kids _ to a Roman Catholic nun.

These are just a few of the some 1,500 people who will be taking part in the 14th annual St. Anthony's Triathlon Saturday and Sunday in downtown St. Petersburg.

Triathlon weekend officially begins with the Meek and Mighty Mini Tri, a mini-distance triathlon Saturday at North Shore Park and Pool, 901 North Shore Drive. The distances will vary according to age groups and the course is set in and around North Shore Pool, with run and bike loops circling the baseball field, North Shore Drive, Coffee Pot Boulevard and a section of Beach Drive, and finishing with the swim in the pool.

The event is designed as an introductory event for adults and as a youth triathlon for 7 to 14-year-olds. The first group of athletes, ages 15-and-up, will start competing at 8 a.m. The 11-14 group will begin at 9 a.m. and the 7-to-10-year-olds go off last with a 10 a.m. start.

The first two groups will run 1.2-miles, bike for 5.4-miles and do a 200-yard swim. The 7-to-10 year-olds will run .8 of a mile, bike for 3.6 miles and swim 100 yards. Award ceremonies begin at 11 a.m. in Straub Park.

Sunday is Triathlon day, and within the four-hour official time span, the participants will do a .9 mile/1.5K swim; 24.8 mile/40K bike ride and 6.2-mile/10K run. Participants will be gathering as early as 5:30 a.m. for body marking. At 7:30 a.m., the race begins when the first group of swimmers enters the blue-green waters of Tampa Bay.

Award ceremonies for the triathletes begin at 1:30 p.m. The winning male and female professionals will each be awarded $5,000. Some $20,000 will be distributed among the remaining top 18 male and female finishers in this division, on a sliding scale from $2,500 for second place to $400 for 10th place.

Hawaiian Ironman Triathlon slots will be awarded to top finishers in the age categories.

The event isn't all about athletic prowess, either. Al Jarreau, the critically acclaimed jazz performer and the winner of five Grammy Awards, is the featured attraction at the WSJT-FM 94.1-sponsored "Smooth Jazz on the Bay" concert Saturday in Vinoy Park. Gates open at noon and performances will go on until sunset, with Jarreau starting around 5:30 p.m. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster for $18, or $30 for premium seating. Also performing will be Peter White, Rick Braun and Marilyn Scott.

Then there is the popular Diaper Derby, which starts at 9 a.m. Saturday in Straub Park. There are qualifying heats and races in four age groups: 6-8 months; 9-12 months; 13-15 months and 16-18 months. Prizes will also be awarded for the most creative diaper decorations.

Here's a closer look at some of the triathlon participants and their diverse backgrounds:

+ This is 12th consecutive time Jim Garrison of Earleton will participate in the St. Anthony's event. A wildlife biologist for the Florida Game and Fish Commission, Garrison, 42, deals with animals brought by people who have found them injured or orphaned. While living in a house on the Camp Blanding Wildlife Management Area, he raised a fawn. He named it Dixie and, in time, he released the animal to the wild. But every time the deer saw Garrison running, she would come out of the woods and join him. "It began to be a regular event and she would go as far as 15 miles with me on a training run," he recalls. Garrison eventually moved her to Baden Powell Boy Scout Camp near Melrose to keep her out of hunting areas but he says "I'll never forget the experience."

+ Since becoming a triathlete a year ago, former Tampa Bay Bucs lineman John Cannon has won four triathlons in his Clydesdale (men who weigh 200 pounds-plus) division. Cannon, 36, is participating in the St. Anthony's event in hopes of qualifying for the Hawaiian Ironman competition. If he does get to compete, Cannon says he will do it to raise money for two special causes: the Sun Coast Children's Dream Fund and Camp Good Days and Special Times. An investment officer in the Clearwater office of Robert W. Baird, Cannon was cross-training at the Interbay YMCA when friends Billy Urbanski and Myra Haag urged him to start doing triathlons with them. After working on his swimming and buying a bike, Cannon, a one-time lifeguard, was off and running.

+ While Cannon aspires to Ironman status, the "Iron-King" himself will be competing in this year's St. Anthony's event. Luc Van Lierde, 28, of Belgium won the 20th Ironman Hawaii Triathlon World Championship in record time in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, on Oct. 26, 1996. It was his first attempt at the 140.6-mile distance and he did it in 8 hours, 4 minutes and 11 seconds, breaking the record of 8:07:45 set by Mark Allen in 1993.

+ This year's triathlon will be a family affair for the Robert Hoke family of St. Petersburg. Hoke, 48, the director of human resources at Florida Power Corp., will run his first race. For wife Karen, 45 (owner of a commercial janitorial service), it will be a repeat performance. Tyler, 11, and Andrea, 9, have done the mini-tri before, but this is 7-year-old Alison's first hometown competition.

Karen's oldest son, Kyle Goodwin, 23, had planned to compete but will be sidelined by a broken leg. He will serve as a volunteer instead.

As if getting ready for the race were not enough, the Hokes will host the post-race party at their Northeast St. Petersburg home on Sunday night. They also are providing housing for international triathloners including: Ute Schaefer of Ennepetal, Germany, and John Maclean, an Australian wheelchair triathlete who lost the use of his legs after being run over by a truck while training on his bicycle; and Lee Hutchinson and Jason Howard, from Manchester, England.

+ "Every day we need to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words," says Judge Michael Jones, 46, quoting from Goethe. The New Hampshire district judge earlier this year won the masters' division in the Nigrel, Jamaica, sprint triathlon. Last year, he came in third at St. Anthony's (which was his first triathlon); fourth in the ITU World Championships and 12th at the national championships in his age group. He is writing a book on sports law which is scheduled to come out in 1998 and is also author of Current Issues in Pro Sports.

+ "I enjoy ticking off my male group counterparts during the race, because I need some incentive beside the sheer joy of drinking in God's beauty while applying mind, body and soul," says the spirited Sister Madonna Buder, 66, of Spokane, Wash. Buder, a Catholic nun from the Sister for A Christian Community order, holds the women's age group records in the Canadian and Hawaiian Ironman Triathlons. This is the fourth time she will compete in the St. Anthony's event. Among her feats: She was first in her age group last year; is her age-group winner in 14 triathlons (including her Hawaiian Ironman age group) and winner of three world championships in duathlons.

AT A GLANCE

Saturday

St. Anthony's Meek and Mighty Mini Triathlon, prizes awarded in three age categories _ at North Shore Park and Pool: 8 a.m. start for ages 15 and up, 9 a.m. start for ages 11-14, 10 a.m. start for ages 7-10. Entry fee: $25-$30. 825-1271.

"Smooth Jazz on the Bay" concert from noon until sundown, with headliner Al Jarreau starting around 5:30 p.m.; other acts are Rick Braun, Marilyn Scott and Peter White. Sponsored by WSJT-94.4 FM. Tickets are $30 for premium seating and $18 for general admission.

Sunday

St. Anthony's Triathlon _ 7:30 a.m.-noon. Race starts near Spa Beach, Second Avenue NE at the waterfront, downtown St. Petersburg; Information: 825-1271. Benefits St. Anthony's Health Care Foundation.

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