Triathlon attracts professors, students, and octogenarians

Esteban Ramirez, Reporter
September 21, 2011
Filed under Sports

The Bakersfield Triathlon, held at Lake Ming on Sept. 19, showcased young talent winning, a performance by a Bakersfield College professor and some veterans of the sport.

Michael Szewczyk, a 21-year-old who went to Garces High School, won the sprint section of the triathlon. That involved a half-mile swim, a 12-mile bike ride and a 3.7-mile run.

“I felt good out there, I thought I did really well in the swim, but the bike was a little hard,” said Szewczyk. “The hardest was definitely the run because I kind of panicked when I saw the sign that said I still had two miles to go, but I was able to keep my composure and fight through.”

According to Szewczyk, he fell behind at the beginning of the bike, but was able to get back in the lead and stayed there.

This was his first triathlon in three years and he said he wants to try the Olympic distance next, which is about twice as long as a sprint.

In the Olympic-distance race, the winner was Luke Roberts, a 28-year-old firefighter also from Bakersfield.

“I’ve been doing this event since 2008, so it feels good to finally win and to have my family here supporting me when it happened,” he said.

Other participants included Suzanne Pinza, an Academic Development professor at BC who rode the bike portion on an Olympic-distance relay team.

“I thought I had a personal best, but I think I didn’t go as fast downhill because I was afraid of cramping,” she said. “This was my fourth time doing it and second time doing the Olympic. It’s a lot of fun for me, and it helps me to keep myself in shape.”

There was plenty of diversity in the triathlon, including some seasoned veterans like Becky Whitehead and Chuck Freuler.

Whitehead, 73, has been doing the Bakersfield Triathlon since 1988.

“I want to keep doing it, but it seems the race is getting longer each year,” said Whitehead. “It’s probably because I’m getting slower.”

Whitehead said that she has a lot she can improve upon, like running faster, but was satisfied with the end results of her performance.

Freuler, 84, has been doing triathlons for over 30 years.

“I felt OK out there, but I realize that the older you get the faster you used to be,” Freuler said. “I had a good bike, but the toughest for me was definitely the run, because it was hot and I run better in the cold.

“I absolutely want to keep doing this because it keeps me fit and that can improve the quality of anyone’s health when they stay fit.”

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