In less than a decade, the Georgia’s club triathlon team has grown from five athletes to a team of 60, and its members are hoping Sunday’s second annual Early Bird Sprint Triathlon will help it continue to build its reputation as well as its membership.
The event, which is open to the public, not only draws competitors from the Athens area but from across the Southeast with teams coming from Mississippi State, Clemson, Alabama, and Florida. Despite this widespread participation, club president Katie Reeder said the organization was keen to make the event a community-based one.
“It’s not only a college thing, but it’s a community thing,” Reeder said. “There is only one other triathlon in Athens, that’s the Athens Tri to Beat Cancer, which is in August which is also a popular race. The thought for us was we were looking for something that wouldn’t only support the team but would also promote the team in the community.”
Sunday’s sprint triathlon features a 400-meter swim, a 20-kilometer bike race and a 5-kilometer run.
While the university is the event’s host, it is not the organizer for the event, which features a 400-meter swim, a 20-kilometer bike race and a 5-kilometer run. As with last year’s event, Set Up Events will be the event organizer. Race director Crisp MacDonald said that while the event field is a little smaller than last year, he is hoping it will be able to provide a similar benefit for the club as it raises funds.
“Last year we were able to raise well over $1,200 for the triathlon club through the race, even with its small size,” MacDonald said. “It’s a little bit smaller this year, but we’re hoping to do a significant four figure donation and I think that’s possible. Most of that money goes to send the triathlon club to nationals.”
Though the event is heavily focused on collegiate triathletes, it is also open to public registration. Anyone can sign up, but MacDonald said that they try to tailor it toward college students.
“There’s a special delegation for the collegiate athletes, we offer heavy discounts to encourage them to register,” he said. “I spent a good many years in college getting a few different degrees, so I know you don’t have money when you’re in school and we know it’s also a limiting factor. We want to be as accessible to the collegiate athletes as possible because these folks are the future of the sport.”
Jared Ray serves as the finance director for the club and also competes. Ray said that the event has become increasingly more and more anticipated in the triathlon community, especially because of its positive reception last year.
“It was a great race to kick off the triathlon season,” Ray said. “Also, since it was located in a place with which I am so familiar, it was more special. There was also a sense of pride among the club, as Early Bird is a race that we organize and benefit from. It’s a huge fundraiser for the team. The course last year was challenging; it was very windy and rather cold. However, keep in mind that last year’s race took place in the beginning of March. Hopefully this weekend will yield warmer temperatures.
“Regardless, it’s a great race for triathlon newbies and seasoned athletes alike. The run through the intramural fields is by far my favorite part of this race. There are fewer places in Athens that are more beautiful than the intramural trails in the springtime.”
MacDonald and Reeder said they are hoping the triathlon becomes an annual event and continues to grow both the Georgia club and the sport’s overall participation. They also said that having the ability to hold the event on campus is a unique opportunity.
You look at the local competitors and they don’t have a triathlon on their campus as far as I know, and very few other SEC schools have triathlons on their campus,” MacDonald said. “It’s kind of an anomaly to have a triathlon club and have a triathlon on your campus that benefits that club where the general public is participating.”
The triathlon begins at 8 a.m. on Sunday. The swimming leg, which will begin the event, will be held in the Ramsay Student Center with the bike ride taking riders out through the east side of Athens as far as Whit Davis Road and back to Ramsay before the final running stage will see competitors run a lap of Lake Herrick at the intramural fields. Anybody interested in volunteering is encouraged by the organizers to lend a hand on the day of the event.
For more information about the club and its events, visit ugatri.com.