2015 Optimist Sports Fiesta Marks The 40th Anniversary Of The Longest Running Annual Triathlon In The World - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Coronado Island News

2015 Optimist Sports Fiesta Marks The 40th Anniversary Of The Longest Running Annual Triathlon In The World

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Posted: Friday, September 4, 2015 8:10 am

The longest running annual triathlon in the world has one of the most inviting short courses in the sport. In Coronado, Optimist Club volunteers in gold shirts welcome participants to the check-in and same-day sign-up at Sunset Park. Bicycles are left there leaning against the curbs at 101 Ocean Boulevard. Entrants walk down to the shore with caps and goggles in hand. A 1/4 mile swim in the cool Pacific Ocean is followed by a one mile run down the beach and back, then through the soft sand back to Sunset Park. Helmets on, the bicyclists race on to North Island for an out and back course that finishes at Sunset Park. “One quarter mile swim, one mile run, four mile bike.” Done. The 2015 start will be at 7 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 5.

Want to do more that morning? There will be a 5k run on the Naval Air Station course at 9 a.m. At 10 am there will be a one mile Ocean Swim. Six Hard Rock awards will be awarded to three females and three males based on the total of their times in all three events.

When Stan Antrim and Bob Weaver planned the first triathlon course for the Coronado Optimist Club Sports Fiesta in 1975, Antrim had a reason to keep the run course short. He wanted swimmers to sign up. Antrim was the Aquatics Director for the Coronado Recreation Department as well as the swim coach for the Coronado Masters Association (CMA), the adult swim group that he had set up in 1973. Antrim and Jake Sloan laid out that first triathlon course in 1975. Sloan recalled that Antrim told him a short run down the beach toward the Hotel del would attract more swimmers than a long run.

One reason Antrim gave for starting a lap swimming group for adults was that he thought many of the parents of the young swimmers on the Coronado-Navy Swim Team (CNSA) looked soft. Antrim encouraged the students and the adults to be more active. He talked up the July Sports Fiesta year round. Sports Fiesta events raised money for the Optimist Club to serve the youth of Coronado.

The bike leg came first in that first Optimist triathlon on July 27, 1975. The bicycles were lined up side by side across the road where the Ocean Boulevard gate led onto the Naval Air Station.  Michael Collins was there. He recalled that he leaned down to adjust his bike which was on one side of the starting line-up. The next thing he knew bicycles fell down in a cascade across the road. That could be why the bicycle leg of the Coronado triathlon now comes last.

The swim leg of the triathlon was cancelled one year after the swimmers were in the water. The surf rose up steep and high on glassy waters. The fast swimmers who were ahead ended up at a disadvantage. The cautious swimmers who had not yet dived under the tall waves were told to leave the water and begin the run. That was the one time that the fast swimmers were the last out of the ocean and the last to start the run. For a few years the swim course was moved to the calm waters of Glorietta Bay. The run and bike course transitions were at Glorietta Bay Park. Not an ocean triathlon. Not the same. The events were moved back to Sunset Park.

Antrim, Weaver and the Optimist Club came up with a great idea one year to encourage each person to enter three Sports Fiesta Events. There would be a Hard Rock category. Enter the 10k run at 7 a.m. on Saturday, swim the one mile in the ocean at 11 a.m.  On Sunday do the triathlon at 7 a.m. beginning with the short ocean swim. There were Hard Rock awards to 3 places in each age group for all those who had a finish time for all three events.  That is when some swimmers decided to jog their first 10K. It was for a good cause. There was time to recover between events. The Hard Rock category was the incentive to enter an event even though you knew you would have a slow time. The award was a smooth rock glued to a piece of wood. The so-called Hardware Hunters considered that award a keeper.

Alas, the Hard Rock incentive to inspire many to enter 3 events was stopped to save money on awards. Some Optimist Fiesta regulars stopped entering more than one event after that. Other major changes occurred in 2014. The 10k was changed to a 5k. That was good news for some. All 3 events now happen in a short period of time on one day. That reduces the triple entry field to those who are the trained, the young, the talented. In the ocean swim wetsuits are now allowed. The finish times of the wetsuit and “skin” swimmers are in a single award category.  That change skews the swim finish times, favors those in wetsuits. This year the date of the Sports Fiesta has been moved from July to Labor Day Weekend so that more students can take part. Ocean waters are warmer in September too.

What would Optimist volunteers Antrim and Weaver think now about the triathlon course they set up in 1975? They might be very proud of Coronado’s place in the history of what is now the modern sport of triathlon. Antrim would be pleased that his adult swim team, the Coronado Masters, still practices at the Municipal pool on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings. Few of the Masters take part in Sports Fiesta events now, absent Antrim’s incentives to get them there. The CMA coach was a prominent Sports Fiesta volunteer. He expected to see all his swimmers at practice and in Sports Fiesta events. Period.

Three of Antrim’s Masters Swimmers, Flo Squires and Judy and John Collins, skipped CMA swim practice one night. That afternoon they had also skipped the timed, weekly three-mile run around the Coronado Golf Course. On Sept. 25, 1974 seven Coronadans drove over the bridge to be in a run, bike, swim event that was called a triathlon. It was the idea of Squires to enter the San Diego Track Club event. The Collinses were there with their children, CNSA swimmers Kristin and Michael, plus two of the Wednesday Runners, George Moore and Rubin “Curly” Collins. At the next swim practice Judy and John Collins reported to Antrim that running, biking and swimming non-stop was great fun and a fine workout. And that Coronado would be a much better place for a triathlon than Mission Bay in San Diego. Their coach frowned his disapproval and barked out a response, “That is stupid. That is not a sport.”

A few months later Antrim made a surprise announcement to the swimmers. He had a twinkle in his eye when he announced that the Optimist Club had added a triathlon to the 1975 event list for the Sports Fiesta. Forty years later, triathletes are glad for that. After a few years the San Diego Track Club dropped triathlons from their calendar. Over the bridge in Coronado the Optimists have made the Coronado Triathlon an annual tradition.

Happy 40th anniversary, Optimist Club of Coronado Sports Fiesta Triathlon!

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