By Sara E. Martin, Army Flier Staff WriterJune 20, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (June 20, 2013) -- Some children spend their summer working for neighbors and some Soldiers spend their weekends studying for flight school, but others train hard for what might be considered one of the hardest competitions in the world of athletics -- completing a triathlon.
Triathlons appeal to a wide variety of people because there are three different parts to it, explained Kristi Fink, fitness programs manager, and that seemed true with the turnout being more than 190 individuals and 23 three-man relay teams.
"It changes it up and makes it even more challenging because you have to be able to swim, bike and then run," said Fink.
The competition had a brisk quarter-mile swim in Lake Tholocco followed by a 10.6-mile bike course, and a 5-km run that wound around the lake and its surrounding roads.
Competitors ranged from 10-year olds to 75-year olds, male and female, Soldier and civilian.
Gabe Henneberger was one of the youngest competitors, being in the seventh grade at Coppinville Junior High School, but held his own, beating out 61 other competitors.
"My mom and my dad are competing today with me. My Family does this and when they did it last year I was like, 'Man I want to do that,'" he said.
Though the young man was competing with his parents, he said that he was fine going at his own pace without their protective eyes.
"It is a little nerve wracking knowing I am the youngest competitor doing the entire race, but I am proud and excited to participate," he said.
Henneberger's chain fell off his bike three times during the competition, and though it discouraged him, he did not give up and still advises everyone his age to exercise.
"I think it is important for people my age to be active because (obesity) affects a lot of people my age. Plus, by getting into the routine of exercising when you're young you create life-long habits to stay fit and eat right," he said.
On the other side of the scale, Cynthy Ramsay, a 51-year old female competitor who came in first in the female grandmaster category said that competing with her son, Jared, was something special.
"I want to encourage Jared. I have loved it -- spending time with him. It is a great excuse for kids and their parents to participate together," she said. "It is especially good for teens because it's healthy competition and to get around like minded people to learn from them is a great experience."
Most participating said that friendly competition can go a long way in personal motivation in the fun and challenging event.
Mark Wilson, a 53-year old competitor who is a retired Army diver, said that he was proud of himself for passing younger men.
"I am glad that Fort Rucker continues to put this on," he said. "Down in northwest Florida, where I live, they have stopped a lot of these events because of budget cuts. I am a competitor, and I need this to keep me in shape and motivated."
The rivalry was many competitors favorite part of the day, but for others like 2nd Lt. Tucker Sulzberger, D Company, 1st Battalion, 145th Aviation Regiment, and Don Stuck, a retired Army Aviator, the community atmosphere and encouragement from others was the greatest thing.
"It is good that the community is involved, it shows the camaraderie between Soldiers and civilians and veterans. It also serves as a great get together for Families, neighbors and friends," said Sulzberger.
"It brings the community closer together. Everyone participating today are all different sizes and shapes but we all have a common goal of getting or staying in shape, and that is a good thing," said Stuck.
Stuck, who was a swimmer on a relay team, said that his team had 158 years between them all and despite past Army injuries they all pushed onward through the race.
"I had back surgery because of the years I spent in Aviation and jumping out of helicopters, but I have tried to not let it get me down. You have to push through injuries because injuries are a part of the job. You have to make sure that they don't limit you," he said.
The overall winner of the triathlon was Stephanie Liles-Weyant with a time of 59 minutes and 26 seconds.