SPICER -- After a week of intense heat around a thunder storm, the seventh annual Green Lake Triathlon got a golden break.
On a mild Sunday morning with the temperature in the mid-60s, a swarm of athletes of all abilities swam, cycled and ran.
"What a beautiful course," said Jill Ellenbecker of Coon Rapids, who won the women's Sprint course. "There was a strong headwind the last four miles of the bike, but I just love the setting for this race and the weather was near perfect."
The Green Lake Triathlon is four races in one. The men's and women's Sprint Course is a quarter-mile swim, 14-mile bike and three-mile run. A total of 262 competitors finished.
The men's and women's Olympic Course of three-quarter mile swim, 28-mile bike and six-mile run had 70 compete individually.
In addition, there were eight Olympic relay teams of two or three persons and 26 Sprint relays.
Hundreds of onlookers gathered at Melvin's on the Lake, the primary sponsor, to cheer the entrants as they set off in five waves from Saulsbury Beach, then transition in the beach parking lot for the cycle and running legs on the way to the finishing chute, also in the parking lot.
For the first time, the cycle leg went clockwise around the lake, instead of counter-clockwise, meaning the first half-mile went through the Spicer business district. The ride was also lengthened to a 14-mile ride with the bikers departing the lake road for some country roads on the east side.
Lucas Petersen returned to duplicate the dualathlon title he won here in May. The 23-year-old Richfield native, who recently graduated from St. Cloud State University, took the prize in the Olympic race. His top-ranked 6:04 pace in the six-mile run was the key. He had been 18th after the swim and still only ninth after the bike.
"The lake was a little choppy, but the weather was not too hot or humid," said Petersen, who was third the two previous years here. "I love Spicer; this is my favorite course."
Petersen's time of 2:14.46 won by nearly two minutes over Michael Hankee, 33, of Lino Lakes (2:16.46).
Hankee's wife, Diane Hankee, also 33, won the women's Olympic in 2:20.44, seventh overall.
A day earlier, the native of Saskatoon, Manitoba, placed third at the Turtleman Triathlon in Shoreview, which is near their home north of St. Paul. A week earlier she competed at Paynesville and Prior Lake.
The former rugby player's 22.7 miles-per-houd pedal speed was among the top five averages, male or female in the long-course race.
Men's short-course winner, Taggert Downare, 40, of St. Cloud won for the third time in three weeks, according to the public address announcer. He's only in his second full year of the sport.
His time of 58.53 was all the more impressive since his age would put him in the Master's division. He was only 16th out of the water but then averaged 26.2 mph on his bike and a 5:59 pace for three miles in the run. Both figures rank him first of the 263 finishers.
He knocked off two-time defending champion Robert Brown, 35, of Hopkins, in second this time, by well over two minutes.
Ellenbeck, the favorite, excelled in the run (6:42 pace) after a so-so bike. "That's my weakest," she said. "With two kids, I don't have time to do a lot of riding."
Spring Willmar High School graduate C.J. Seifert placed 10th and Taylor Bodin, 18, of Clara City was 16th. Willmar native Paul Quale, 40, of Carver placed 19th in the Sprint.
Gary Esboldt, 58, of Willmar got a huge cheer and a hug from a well-wished as he finished the Sprint course in 250th place. It was announced he has overcome cancer and had double hip replacement in recent years.
Team Oxygen of Willmar was second of 36 relays with Ross Swartz, John Seifert and Anders Byberg.
In Sprint, Aaron Madsen, 30, of Willmar took 12th followed immediately by William Lorenz, 38, of Benson and Andrew Prest, 35, of Granite Falls.