The 20th annual Southern Hills Triathlon took place this past Saturday at Angostura Reservoir.
The Black Hills State University women showed up in a big way in the sprint race. Two of their participants took first and second place in the women’s division, with local speedster Jonette Murphy coming in a close third. The men’s race was anchored by Shannon DeBoer who captured first. John Hill came in second, and Zack Andrews came in third.
The Olympic distance tri provided spectators with a great show of speed as well, as local superstar (and incidentally the Wildlife Loop Triathlon founder and director) Brandon Zelfer took a commanding first place. Zelfer came out of his two-lap swim before the sprinters dove in, and he passed many of the sprinters on his way back from his out-and-bike bike ride. Kevin Conboy took second, and Troy Thompson took third for the men. Wendy Cota, and Stacey Nelson took first and second for the women. In the duathlon Patti Tisdall, Beth Spitzer, and Jim Letner took first, second, and third place respectively.
One thing becomes quickly apparent to first-time participants at Southern Hills: these folks know what they’re doing. Angostura Reservoir provides athletes with one of the cleanest swims in the state and arguably the prettiest beach. Picture uber soft, fine sand. And while swimmers can’t see the bottom of the lake, but they can see their hands the entire time. Because of its depth, Angostura also had some pretty chilly water (71 degrees on race day).
The bike course promised beautiful hills, and it did not disappoint. It provided participants exactly what you’d image for southern hills. There weren’t the winding steep hills cyclists find in the Black Hills, but instead rolling hills and straight roads, desert-like landscape, and the beautiful vegetation that accompanies it, along with one short, steep climb that made the strongest cyclists shift into their baby gear. The veteran organizers of this race gave participants a well-marked course, with volunteers stopping traffic on the only highway participants crossed.
The run gave participants a safe route, as long as they didn’t consider hills to be dangerous. These hills are the real deal here, with what feels like the switch backs in Sioux Falls. The run course culled the seasoned locals from the flat-land visitors. Locals appear to relish the challenge. They’re tough, gritty, and seasoned.
One more thing made this a great race: loyalty. Phrases like “I do this race every year” peppered conversations in transition both before and after the event. Participants are faithful, and they come in droves. And the post-race spread included individually packaged goodies from chocolate chip-walnut cookies to fruit-filled pastry.
Southern Hills is one of the South Dakota races that offers a kids’ event as the last adults are trickling in. This particular kids’ event has one of the toughest kids’ race both for the course and the distance. The little triathletes swam 100 yards out to a buoy and back, and then they biked three miles total on the same hilly route the adult runners tackled before them. Then they ran a mile back up and down those same hills.