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  1. Sports

Tribute to a fallen friend at St. Anthony’s Triathlon

Amy Adcock, who died on Jan. 30 from cancer, rarely missed her hometown race. Now a trio of friends will compete for her this weekend.

Amy Adcock always competed in the St. Anthony’s Triathlon.

College. Work. Injuries. Nothing stopped the Northeast High graduate (class of 1987) from traveling to St. Petersburg for the race.

Until last year.

Chemotherapy for uterine cancer left Adcock too weak to participate. It marked just the second time she missed the St. Anthony’s Triathlon in 34 years.

Still, Adcock trained when she had the strength.

Once the final radiation treatment ended last fall, Adcock focused on racing here again.

She met workout buddies to bike, swim and run. They all marveled at her recovery.

Months later, everything changed. In December, doctors discovered a recurrence of cancer.

This time it had spread to her liver — fast.

Adcock died Jan. 30 in Virginia. She was 49 years old.

Friends filled the hospital room to be with Adcock at the end. Others reached out from all over the country — and the world.

Among those by her side were Steve Ahern and Abby Ruscetta, training partners with Adcock for more than a decade in Virginia.

As a tribute, the two decided to finish the one goal Adcock could not complete.

On Sunday, they are entering the St. Anthony’s Triathlon. So is Mike Piet, another member of the workout group who could not be with Adcock in those final days.

“I felt like this is what Amy would want,” Ahern said.

Adcock loved sports, especially swimming. Her classmates voted her most athletic. She went on to become a walk-on swimmer at the University of North Carolina.

Amy Adcock and Mike Piet at the Age Group National Championships in Burlington, VT. (Courtesy of Mike Piet)

Academics were important, too. After UNC, Adcock studied at the University of Oxford.

Work as a television producer followed, first at WTVT-Ch. 13 in Tampa and later at a FOX affiliate in Boston.

Adcock’s career path changed after 9/11. She became an FBI agent in counterterrorism.

Through it all, Adcock continued to make the St. Anthony’s Triathlon a priority among her athletic endeavors. That race defined her. At 15, she became the youngest competitor ever entered.

To prepare, Adcock joined biking, running and swimming groups. That is how she met the three racing in her honor this weekend.

Ahern, Piet and Ruscetta all have government or military backgrounds. The friends bonded through sweat. They talked about work, about life.

“These are all some of my favorite people in the world,” Ahern said. “It can be somewhat therapeutic, running and talking and having each other’s company.”

Some of those discussions involve tragedy.

Their training group keeps getting smaller. Adcock is the third woman to die from cancer or illness in the past year.

Even the trio has scattered. They all live in different states now.

Sunday’s race will be a reunion of sorts.

“We’re all happy to see each other again,” Piet said. “We just wish it was under different circumstances.”

Ahern and Piet are making their St. Anthony’s Triathlon debuts. Ruscetta competed in the event twice before. Last month, she came to St. Petersburg for Adcock’s celebration of life. The ceremony was held near the Vinoy Yacht Basin, where Adcock annually plunged into the water to start the race.

To make it even more meaningful, Ruscetta plans to use Adcock’s blue road bike during the cycling portion.

Ahern also made T-shirts that read: “Keep Fighting — Amy A. St. Anthony’s Tri April ’19.”

“I know Amy will be smiling,” Ruscetta said. “She’ll be happy.”

None of the three are in peak triathlon shape. Where they place in their age group hardly matters.

“This is not for us,” Ruscetta said. “This is for Amy. It’s more about just finishing and completing this journey together for an amazing women who left quite a legacy.”

St. Anthony’s Triathlon

When/where: Sunday; North Shore and Vinoy Parks, St. Petersburg

Olympic distance race: 1.5K swim, 40K bike, 10K run; first wave starts at 6:50 a.m.

Sprint race: 750-meter swim, 20K bike, 5K run; 8:35 start

Notable: Sports and fitness expo at Vinoy Park runs from 7a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday.

Meek & Mighty

When/where: Saturday; North Shore Pool, St. Petersburg

Competition: A shorter distance race for youths ages 7-14 and novice adults; 7:30 a.m. start time

Notable: Sports and fitness expo at Vinoy Park runs from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday.


Individual sprint-distance and sprint relay races for the triathlon are sold out. On-site registration is available for Olympic-distance and Meek & Mighty triathlons.

Contact Bob Putnam at Follow @BobbyHomeTeam.