Despite a thick fog that delayed race start, Yankton’s Best Tri went off without a hitch or significant injury on Saturday, August 29 at Lewis and Clark Lake.
A dense fog that made the bike route visibility sketchy forced race organizers to delay the start of the race, but no participants seemed to mind hanging out with some of the nicest people in spandex for a few more minutes before getting down to business. Once the fog lifted sufficiently, teams, men, and women dove into the water with mass starts two minutes apart and continued to race in the eerie fog that hung above the area.
Once all was said and done, Justin Schweitzer, the current SDTA series points leader, emerged from the murky haze on the run route and solidified his win after a smoking fast run (with a consistent 5:22 pace). Kevin Bjerke, the northern South Dakota sensation and Northern State University track & field and cross country coach set a stellar example for his own athletes with a fantastic performance and second place finish. Kevin Mitchell, one of the fastest 40-something studs in the state, finished third, and bested pro Morgan Chaffin by 10 seconds. Chaffin brought her A-game north from Nebraska, and she made her presence known with her uber-fast swim. Ethan Marquardt, who has consistently surprised us all with his vast improvement over the 2014 season, rounded out the top five overall.
Pro Morgan Chaffin won the women’s division, stating she enjoyed the course and riding over the Gavin’s Point Dam and rolling her wheels through her home state for a few minutes before speeding her way back to South Dakota. SDTA women’s points leader Kathy Grady finished second by using her overall excellence in all three disciplines to keep an eight-second distance between herself and third-place finisher Nikki Reinsbach. Kimber Pierzchalski once again put on the afterburners on the run and finished fourth place, less than a minute behind Reinsbach. Teresa VanHyfte pushed through the discomfort that can come with the last race as well and rounded out the top five women.
Overall, this race capped off a great season of SDTA races. SD triathlon pioneers Frank Farrar and Howard Bich continued to show us that age is not a factor in the world of triathlon. We also had the pleasure of seeing talent from Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Missouri, as well as from our favorite state in the nation. We saw the gifted young talent of athletes like 15-year-old Ike Mendel (who placed 6th overall) and 14-year-old Sydney Huber (who nearly cracked the top ten women’s field), who have the potential to carry the sport on their shoulders in years to come.
This particular race also successfully showcased the best scenery southeastern South Dakota has to offer with a beautiful run beside the river and a great trek across the dam. Furthermore, the murmurings among athletes post-race revealed that not only did organizers have clear markings on the course, but they had living, breathing, and vocal volunteers to direct participants on where to go. Newbies and veterans alike had no issues with navigation as a result.
More than anything, though, we had the pleasure of seeing the camaraderie among what has to be South Dakota’s friendliest sport. This race welcomed newbies as well as triathletes trying to find their groove once again, as made obvious by the cheers for everyone either emerging from the water or crossing the finish line. The pizza at the finish line made from a great reason to hang out and visit as well. Yankton’s Best Tri solidified the belief that this is a sport worth investing time in.
Those athletes wishing to stretch themselves just a wee bit further have a couple of chances to do so still. The Southern Hills Triathlon will take place at Angostura next weekend, and the Wildlife Loop Half, the longest race with the fattest purse in the state, takes place the weekend after that.