At 8 am on Saturday morning the first wave of dedicated triathletes dove into Rogers-Lakewood’s lake for the final time. The 14th annual Valpo Tri ran its last course this year, which marks the end to a celebrated Valparaiso tradition. Around 240 athletes took part in the triathlon to help make 2016’s race one of the best yet, with picture perfect conditions welcoming the athletes and their families.
Valpo Parks decision to end the triathlon for the immediate future was decided on multiple factors, from the increasing options for athletes to participate in similar races around the region to the construction within Rogers-Lakewood likely to happen over the next year. Still, it was a difficult choice to end the triathlon, especially for Valpo Parks’ Assistant Director Barbie Johnson who still holds the Tri as one of her favorite events to put on.
“Personally it has been one of my favorite things to do each year because it’s such a great thing to accomplish when the day is done. We’ve had no injuries in fourteen years, and we’ve always had a safe race which takes a lot of work.” Johnson stated. “I’ve had people come up to me and say, you know, ‘Is this really the last one? We’ll miss it.’ so the tri is something that a lot of people care for. [Valpo Parks] still has a lot to offer, there’s so much variety and chances to be involved in things, but with the recent decline in participants this is one we decided that it’s time to let go.”
After fourteen years of a triathlon there have been many people who have come and gone across the finish line at Rogers-Lakewood, but there’s a small group of four men who have taken the triathlon challenge for all fourteen years. Bob Emery is one of those men, and decided to run his last race with his son Bobby - who participated in the tri for the first time that morning. As a big tradition for him and his family, Emery was understandably upset about the triathlon’s closing.
“I’m very disappointed that they’re taking a sabbatical event away from the community, but I really do hope that in the future it will get picked back up and there will be a Valpo Tri again.” Emery stated. “This has always been well organized, it’s a great community event, and it fits into to Valpo’s ‘fit city’ initiative perfectly. I’ve participated in over 50 triathlons across the country and this has always been one of the best ones anywhere, and the one I enjoy the most. I’ll miss it but at least my son’s here to do the final one with me.”
Even with the triathlon coming to a close it still gave many the opportunity to be a part of the race before it’s gone. Penny Lawrence, a 15 year-old Valpo resident, had participated in other triathlons but never the one in her backyard. As a part of a team she decided to take up the chance and take the Valpo Tri for a spin.
“I took up swimming this morning for my team, but it was really good to be a part of this triathlon.” Lawrence stated. “The water was the perfect temp, I think I did well and from what I’ve heard I might’ve broke a record. It’s been a really good morning and I’m glad I was able to say I was a part of this.”
As athletes gave it their all during all disciplines it was easy to see that the Valpo Tri is a important and gratifying experience for all who participate. Though next year there will be no swimmers, bikers or runners at Rogers-Lakewood on a summer morning, there will still be the memories of the 2016 race and all of the years before. The Valpo Tri went out on a high note, and it certainly couldn’t of been a better morning for those who will miss it and for those who crossed the finish line for the last time.