By: Bonnie Wright, edited by Jerri Hanna


Near perfect weather set the scene at Maclay Gardens State Park on the last Saturday in March as the Red Hills Triathlon began with waves of swimmers entering the still waters of Lake Hall in the early morning sunshine. What a marvelous day for the 243 men and women who started the Red Hills Triathlon held on March 30, 2003, at Maclay Gardens State Park. Volunteers and spectators cheered the efforts of the athletes as they emerged from the 70-degree water into the warm morning air to transition to the 18-mile bicycle portion of the race. The next 3 waves left at five-minute intervals. Then the riders transitioned again and ran 3.2 miles in the dappled pathways of the rugged and hilly run course.

Rob Roller observed that it was challenging course but a great way to start the triathlon experience.

Vicki Smith, age 50 and first-time triathlete, credited the encouragement of her fellow contestants and the cheering volunteers with boosting her motivation. “I wanted to do something big,” she said, “and I did-I finished.”

Also finishing his first triathlon was Karl Hempel, accomplished and talented fixture on the local running scene. His early morning pool swim regimen paid off in the first leg of the contest. Rob Roller, a tri-geek guru, commented that Karl just seemed to have had the most fun of anyone out there.

Tricia Rizza made the Red Hills event her second triathlon and she loved it. “Finishing is just as good as winning for me. The volunteers and the other participants in the race were so positive and helpful. I never felt not fast enough to be there…at this race, everyone was welcome.”

Judy Alexander, a volunteer on the running portion of the race, battled mosquitoes and the occasional horse and rider all the while cheering the contestants wildly on. “From my vantage point, I was able to witness tired triathletes as they went into their last loop on the run, then triumphant ones as they emerged with less than a mile to go. My hands were sore from clapping so much, but it was rewarding to see smiles & a renewed energy from athletes who had already completed a 1/3-mile swim, 18-mile bike ride, & nearly 3 miles of their run.”

A highlight of Kathy McDaris’ day was witnessing the camaraderie of all the competitors who came to the finish line to cheer on the final finisher and first time triathlete, Whtiney Cleveland from Thomasville, who finished at 3:10.

David Yon sums it up very nicely, “I was very impressed with the organization of the event. As a volunteer you really get a different view of what must go on to make an event like Red Hills a success. My hat is off to Kathy, Jeff and their entire crew for pulling off a nearly flawless event.”

Fun facts to memorize:

83 – the number of competitors who participated in their first triathlon
100 – the number of volunteers
14 – the age of the 3 youngest competitors
62 – the age of the oldest female competitor
6:46 – the swim time of the first male out of the water
7:08 – the swim time of the first female out of the water
29 – the number of seconds one contestant bested another contestant in the swim
1 – the husband who puts up with my banter and also provides a world of support

Complete results.