Varsity Scout Triathlon races through Pima

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: The 29th annual Jim Brinkerhoff Varsity Scout Triathlon was once again a roaring success.

Jon Johnson Video/Gila Herald

By Jon Johnson

PIMA – The 29th annual Jim Brinkerhoff Varsity Scout Triathlon ran like a well-oiled machine Friday and Saturday in Pima. 

This year’s event had more than 1,000 registered participants and Race Director Mons Larson said his team managed to get the average check-in time down to four minutes per racer.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Matalyah Bretz, 15, of Mesa, grabs water at the start of the run. Bretz finished first overall for the female division for the fifth year in a row and broke her own record with a time of 33:19.

The event brings in racers and handlers from throughout Arizona and even has some out-of-state entrants who gather together for a pre-event dance the night prior to the race. A good number of racers camp out at the Vard

Lines Memorial Roping Arena, but many others are put up by local residents while others manage to secure a hotel room in nearby Thatcher or Safford.

Graham County Manager Dustin Welker competed in the event for his fifth time in a row and expressed his support. 

“I think this is a great event for the whole community,” Welker said. “You have a ton of people from out of town come and next year our goal will be to try to get more local people involved and get behind it and support it.” 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: The event always brings out some characters as well.

Race Director Mons Larson organized the event for the 10th year in a row and said between the attendees, volunteers, and the town of Pima, the race was a phenomenal success.

“It’s a good time out there but it’s all because of (the) volunteers,” Larson said. “I have some amazing volunteers (who) make it happen. We’ve got about 50 volunteers here today that make it run smooth. It’s a good time.”

For the fifth year in a row, Matalyah Bretz, 15, of Mesa, ran away as the overall top finisher in the women’s bracket by shaving two minutes off her previous record time to finish in 33:19. Bretz was followed by Taryn Wilson in second place at 39:50 and Jeni Reid took third overall in 42:29.

Bretz, who competes in lengthier triathlons across the state and more, had two sisters, a brother, and both parents running in the race as well. An older sister who has competed in the race with her in the past was not available to do so this year because she was off serving a mission for her church. 

“It’s really confusing having two transitions but it’s really fun,” Bretz said. She also added that her favorite part of the race was the swim, “but it’s really short and really cold.”

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: The Bretz family sibling competitors this year included, back, from left, Shalise, Matalyah, and Kaeleah; and front, Kohwin.

The race features just a 75-yard swim in the Pima Pool, followed by a 6-mile bike ride before finishing with a 1.6-mile run.  

In the men’s division, Daniel Foster took home overall honors in a time of 32:17, followed by Kyle Havey in 33:31 and Brad McNeil in third at 33:45. Previous overall champion Chuck Royalty just missed the podium in fourth at 33:48.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Racers get ready to check in for the competition.

Pima Vice Mayor Dale Rogers entered the race for his first time because his daughter, Lucy, wanted to participate. Lucy did so even though she had a cast on for a broken left arm.   

“I’m pretty excited for this,” Rogers said prior to the race. It’s my first one. Here we go.”

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: The weather was idyllic for the event as bicyclists raced on the roads with Mount Graham as the backdrop scenery.

Like the well-oiled machine it is, by noon nary a sign could be seen that 1,500 or so people had descended upon the area and the groups left the area as they had found it before setting up the triathlon. 

“It’s great,” Welker said. “I really appreciate Mons and everyone (who) gets this event going and all their volunteer time. (It’s a) fantastic event.”

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: After finishing sixth in his age group, Graham County Manager Dustin Welker returned to the field to finish the last leg of the run with his daughter.

For a full list of times visit

To view a photo album of the event click here.  

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