News-Sun photo by DAN HOEHNE Athletes run through downtown Sebring Sunday morning during the Heartland Triathlon.
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published: Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Community makes Tri a success again
By ED BALDRIDGE
SEBRING -- "It's all about the community. The community helps to put this together; they volunteer, they participate and they cheer the athletes on. That creates an experience that brings them back," said Heartland Triathlon co-organizer Patrick High on Monday.
According to High, the Heartland Tri grew in attendance for its seventh straight year, despite the fact that several pre-registered local participants were hit with a summer flu and did not show.
"We had over 500 pre-register again in the adult race and the kids had over 200.
The kids race grew over 30 percent from last year. About 404 finished in the adult race, again up from last year," High reported.
"Why do we continue to grow? The experience. For example, after the race we feed the participants and their family. They're not expecting that.
"At most races, you get a bottle of water and that's it. We make it a family affair, and that spreads by word of mouth," High said.
"Of course, our sponsors really help as well. TD Bank has been great for the kids' race and Florida Hospital, as well as all the other sponsors, really make this an experience. We provided more to the participants in value than they paid in registration this year.
"That makes a difference," High said.
High also stated that competition in the Tri community also helps the event grow yearly.
"We have a lot of world and national champions participating in this sprint every year. That draws a crowd just to spectate, but also to train against some of the best," High said.
"If I was to sum it all up, it is the community spirit that draws the racers. In the major metros, there is a race every weekend, but they come here to rural central Florida from the coasts and the larger cities. We have a lot to offer and the race community knows that," he said.
"We also have a community that cares and treats the athletes like celebrities. The volunteers do everything they can to treat the athletes when they are here. Not just direct, but treat with hospitality. They feel welcomed and well treated. That makes all the difference in the world when you can go anywhere to compete," High added.
How big can it go?
"Well, we will cap it at some point. We want to make sure that this is a race they leave feeling pampered to, not a mass race. We could reach 1,000 in a few years. Maybe 1,500, but I don't think we want to get to 2,500 or 3,000 like some of the bigger races in the state. That might be too big to keep the attitude that everyone who participates is important. Important to each other, the athletic community and to our community. We don't want to loose that sense of community," High explained.
Heartland Triathlon (by: Tim - 6/19/2012)
Congratulations to Cherie and Patrick on a job well done. You succeeded in providing a first class experience for all race participants. I've participated in events all across the state and none of them come close to matching the race experience you provide. Thank you for your efforts.
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