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Waveless water, clouds make for enjoyable event

At 7 a.m., the sun sat low on the horizon, but the parking lot was filled with triathletes.

Some of them had just arrived. Others had been there for hours.

The wind was calm and the water flat. A few harmless clouds covered the sky.

People jogged and worked on their bikes. Most, if not all, found time to stretch.

By 7:20, the competitors were dressed and ready to go. Many stood on the sand near the water, where shortly they would don their goggles and begin the event.

Well-wishers sat on lawn chairs. Small children played in the sand.

A race coordinator spoke over the loudspeaker, giving instructions to the triathletes.

At 7:30, the first wave of the 279-person field was off. They walked quickly into the water.

Within seconds, they were under the surface and surging toward the buoys. The waveless water provided minimal resistence.

Twenty minutes after the start, many had finished the quarter-mile swim and reached the transition area.

Racers dried themselves and scrambled for shoes. And just like that, they were off on their bikes.

The 15-mile ride took competitors back toward the mainland on Fort Island Trail. The road is narrow and winding but flat. Times were fast.

By 8, the sun had risen, but the clouds hadn't left.

This proved to be a blessing for the triathletes because the clouds kept the temperature relatively low. And surprisingly, it wasn't that muggy _ at least not for this time of year.

By the end of the cycling, the top triathletes had separated themselves from the pack. But they still had a 3-mile run to complete.

At approximately 8:30, Will Iaia of Denver crossed the finish line first to capture the title.

The 21-year-old has spent much of the summer training for events like this in Clermont.

A few minutes later, Ashley Carusone, 18, of High Springs claimed the women's crown.

The four-time state champion

and University of Florida swimming signee has qualified for next year's U.S. Olympic trials in three events.

One by one, others completed the triathlon.

Teammates high-five one another. Some gave out hugs.

Scores were posted, and many participants hurried to see the results.

Just after 9:30, the last competitor finished.

The event officially was over, and yet there was plenty of time to enjoy the holiday before the sun went down.

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