Boy Scout Triathlon brings the heat (and the people)

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Trae Nelson braves the icy Pima Pool waters in the 28th annual Jim Brinkerhoff Varsity Scout Triathlon on Saturday. 

By Jon Johnson

PIMA – The 28th annual Jim Brinkerhoff Varsity Scout Triathlon raced through Pima on Saturday with the influx of people visiting area businesses and providing an economic boost before leaving town.

According to Race Director Mons Larson, 95 percent of the participants in the race are from outside of the area.

“They (visitors) enjoy it very much,” Larson said. “I’ve had a lot of people say thank you for putting this on.”

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Camaraderie ensured everyone finished.
Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: EAC science professor Aaron Burk raises his arms in triumph.

The weather was perfect for the race as the slightly cool morning temperature quickly warmed. 

This year saw a slight downturn with1,557 registered participants. According to CEP Timing, 1,432 racers hit the course, including 303 women.

For the fourth year in a row, Matalyah Bretz, 14, of Mesa, came away victorious as the fastest woman overall with her record-breaking time of 35:20. Payson Figeroa finished second in a time of 35:50, and Pima’s own Kali Nelson finished third overall in 39:22. While Nelson was proud of her top-3 finish, she was even more happy with wrestling bragging rights back from her brother, Trae Nelson, who beat her by nearly two minutes last year.

Kali was confident she would upend her brother’s reign prior to the race and guaranteed a victory.

“I’m going to beat him this time,” she said.

Kali owned Trae in the run this year and came from behind to finish 45 seconds faster than her brother, who completed the race in 41:07.

“I’m not as in shape as I used to be,” Trae said after the race.

However, Trae wasn’t the only local to lose to a younger sibling as Parker Blair was upended by his younger brother, Kaleb Blair as well. Kaleb finished nearly three minutes faster than Parker.

“I’m going to brag to him all the time about this moment because he always beats me in stuff,” Kaleb said. “It’s going to be the best.” 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: The event featured picture-perfect weather as the participants completed the course.

On the men’s side, Chuck Royalty lived up to his name by finishing in first overall with a time of 34:42. Royalty was followed by Brad McNeil in 35:01 and Ashton Player in 35:23, according to CEP timing. However, Player’s time in the bicycle portion was listed at 11:49, which is 8 minutes faster than the next closest time. So, in case there was a mishap, Gila Herald is also listing Blake Bullock, who finished the race in 35:25.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: The event draws various competitors other than just Boy Scouts.

The event, which is the largest Varsity Scout triathlon in the nation, includes a 75-yard swim in the 63-degree Pima Pool, a 6-mile bicycle ride to the Central Cemetery and back and finishes with a 1.6-mile run around town. The race required the closure of 400 south in front of the Dan Hinton School from 6 a.m. to about noon on race day and 200 East from Friday night to noon on Saturday.

As usual, the race ran like a well-oiled machine as Larson’s team of roughly 100 volunteers kept the lines of people shuttling through efficiently, which is no easy task when dealing with nearly 1,500 racers and those who joined them.

“I would like to thank all the volunteers (who) make this event possible,” Larson said. “Without them, it wouldn’t happen.” 

At the finish line, the racers were cheered on by friends and family as they finished strong. Everyone who competed received a medal and commemorative race shirt and backpack.

By noon, the area was cleaned and one could hardly tell an event of such magnitude had taken place, starting just five hours prior.