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West Michigan athletes rule at sixth annual Grand Haven Triathlon

Nate Thompson • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:00 AM

Boeve wasn’t near the top overall finishers in the challenge that called for competitors to complete a pair of 5K runs and a 20K bike, but for a 72-year-old who had a pacemaker installed this spring, crossing the finish line was victory in itself.

“I’m glad to show people it can be done, even for an old-timer like me,” he said with a grin.

Athletes young and old showed it could be done, with an approximate 600 competing in either Olympic- or sprint-distance triathlons, or a duathlon at the sixth annual event.

Crossing the finish line stood as a personal victory and a sweet reward for the often strenuous training the sport requires.

“It’s such a great feeling (to finish),” said Grand Haven’s Libby Brouwer, who competed in the sprint triathlon with her daughter, Kaley, 22. “Whenever it got tough and we’d start complaining, we’d just say to each other that there’s millions of people who can’t do this. We should feel fortunate.”

Still, some triathletes said they were a little on edge upon eying the water conditions on Lake Michigan during the opening stage around 7:30 a.m.

Despite the lake being relatively flat throughout most of the week, the waves were choppy and a challenge to maneuver through. More than anything, it restricted competitors’ vision in locating the course buoys.

“There were some waves, but (the water temperature) was near 69 and once they made the turn past the first buoy, they were able to swim with the current,” said Grand Haven Triathlon organizer and co-founder Ron Knoll. “I’d swim in those conditions any time.”

For duathletes such as Boeve, however, the only concern was beating the heat on the bike and on foot.

“It wasn’t too bad out there,” Boeve insisted, a recently-retired orthopedic surgeon from Grand Haven Bone & Joint. “I haven’t done a lot of running recently, but when I was younger I did a couple marathons. I did the Boston Marathon on my 40th birthday.

“It was never a question I’d do this, even with a pacemaker.”

Boeve said he walked off and on during his second 5K run, but was happy to finish strong.

“I got about the same time as last year, but I was hoping I could beat it,” he said of his 2 hour, 7 minute, 58 second finish.

Boeve said he hopes for continued good health so he can return to the event for a third-straight year.

“When I did Boston, I hoped to give a message to people that it’s not all down hill after 40,” he said. “Today, I try to encourage people the wonders of proper nutrition and exercise.”

A strong collection of West Michigan athletes dominated the leaderboards, resulting in a clean sweep of top individual finishers.


•    The Olympic distance triathlon (1.5K swim, 40K bike and 10K run) was won by Holland’s Matt Smith, 37, while the top female finisher was Ada’s Toni Musto, 21.

•    The sprint triathlon (0.5K swim, 20K bike and 5K run) went to Grand Haven's Aaron Zuelke, a past Grand Haven Triathlon overall winner. Hamilton’s Carol Gephart, 55, was the fastest female in the event by nearly four minutes.

•    In the duathlon, Holland 34 year-old Keith Shoemaker beat out 19-year-old Jonathan Studer of Shelby by three minutes, while Byron Center’s Lindsey Scheltema was 14th overall and the fastest female by nearly a minute.

A pair of triathlon teams were well-represented on Sunday, as several athletes donning the Green & White of Michigan State competed, as well as students from Grand Haven High School’s triathlon class instructed by Derek Warner. Warner said he believed as many as 10 students competed, while a dozen more were volunteers at the event.

“It’s great to see so many from the class out here,” Warner said, who also completed the Olympic triathlon himself.

“It’s like a class reunion out here,” added Alex Clark, a member of the Olympic triathlon relay team “Trifecta” along with fellow GHHS classmates Aaron Venema and Joe Duff. The team repeated their first-place finish from a year ago, as Clark battled through the swim, Duff blazed through the run and Venema breezed on the bike course.

Rhiannon McHenry, a recent GHHS graduate, finished the Seahorse Triathlon in Kalamazoo to earn her ‘A’ in Warner’s course, but returned to compete again on Sunday. She faired well, as she won her 16-19 age group in the sprint triathlon.

“Going through Mr. Warner’s class helped a lot,” she said.

Austin Bessinger, a soon-to-be sophomore, also shined, earning a third-place finish in his 16-19 age group in the sprint triathlon. His key to success was doing “bricks” 3-4 times a week, which is completing bike training then a run with little transition time in between.

Scott Przystas, a teacher at White Pines Middle School in Grand Haven, was one of the more successful finishers of MSU alumni representing the Spartans’ triathlon team – which consists of a variety of students, alumni, and faculty from the school. He finished second overall in the Olympic triathlon.

“That swim was fun. It helped separate the group a little bit,” he said. “When it’s too calm, it’s one big cluster of people.”

Knoll commended the work of local law enforcement and an army of volunteers for helping ensure the triathlon ran smoothly. Volunteer coordinator Lisa Highstreet spearheaded the effort, Knoll said, as she and others made sure competitors stayed on the course and at times, provided encouragement.

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