Willmar notebook: Triathlon and Spicer a good fit

Dave Baker, a businessman, brought triathlon racing back to Spicer's waterfront in 2004. Triathlons had its first burst of popularity at Green Lake from 1984-92 with Dick Score's "Fun in the Sun Triathlon."...

Dave Baker
Photo courtesy Dave Baker Race director Dave Baker plans to make the 10th Green Lake Tri his last.

Dave Baker, a businessman, brought triathlon racing back to Spicer’s waterfront in 2004. Triathlons had its first burst of popularity at Green Lake from 1984-92 with Dick Score’s “Fun in the Sun Triathlon.”

Baker, who owned a restaurant next to the beach, saw the need for a renewed jolt in August, similar to the big uptick around July 4 activities. A new triathlon seemed the ticket. No question, it has worked out.

From 125 entries the first year, the race has grown to over 300 individual entries plus dozens of relay teams. Last year, 267 completed the Sprint short course and 78 the Olympic long course. Relays pushed total entries to near 400.

But Sunday morning’s tri will be Baker’s 10th and last as race director. It’s just time to make a move, he relates.

He told me there’s a sense that he has pushed the volunteers, so generous with their time, about as far as he feels comfortable. Besides, his bag is “start-ups … starting something new.”


And he no longer has the restaurant. He sold that to Zorbaz, which remains the location for the pre-race and post-race awards.

Whoever takes over - and Glacial Lakes race director Dan Hubbard’s name has come up - has a big job. Besides recruiting volunteers and sponsors, there’s a lot of detail work: Securing the route, assuring safety, lining up the Sheriff’s Reserve and First-Responders and contacting the county highway department for the important job of sweeping corners on the high-speed bike leg.

“The county has been great,” Baker mentioned. “It’s all just a lot of detail work.’’

The first race of the second-edition of the Spicer tri began tragically. Pat Boros, a superbly-fit athlete from Willmar, died of a heart attack on the swimming leg in five-feet of water just off the beach.

“Right away, we questioned ourselves,” remembers the then first-year race director. ‘Did we do something wrong. But it was a massive heart attack. He didn’t drown, the autopsy revealed. Nothing could have prevented it. It could have happened on the bike or running leg. It was a terrible thing to happen, but we talked to the family and they encouraged us to keep going. Pat would have wanted us to, they told us.” (The Pat Boros Trail Run at Sibley State Park each September celebrates his dedication to youth and a healthy lifestyle).

Each year the Green Lake Triathlon writes a check to the YMCA for about a $1,000 to support youth programs. Contributions now total $12,000 Baker said.

The combination of the clear waters of Green Lake and the wide county roads makes Spicer a natural fit for a triathlon, Baker believes.

“It’s a family event; this is not a sanctioned points race,” said Baker. In 2008, he added the Kid’s Triathlon, for children as young as preschoolers. He turned the Saturday morning event over to Kelly and Sheri TerWisscha and it’s been a terrific success, last year drawing just over 200 registrations.


All these families provide a nice bump in the local economy, especially for restaurants, motels and convenience stores, one would think. Baker Hospitality might even feel the impact. He owns the Oaks at Eagle Creek and the Super 8, both at Willmar, and Green Lake Cruises.

His August calendar is still busy. Later this month will be the Third Annual Dan Baker Memorial Golf Tournament, which honors the memory of Dan Baker, a son who died in 2011 at age 25.

The Green Lake Kid’s Tri, with its age groups competing in successive races, begins at 8 a.m. The first waves of the Olympic/Sprint tri launch at 8 a.m. Sunday from in front of Zorbaz.

Don Larsen hits homer with Benson

Mr. Perfect is also a perfect gentleman in the eyes of organizers of an annual Benson golf tournament that funds scholarships for Braves athletes and aids school sports and groups.

Former New York Yankee Don Larsen’s most notable feat was pitching the only perfect game in World Series history in Game 5 of the 1956 Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers on Oct. 8, 1956. His perfect game remained the only no-hitter of any kind ever pitched in postseason play until Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay threw a no-hitter against the Reds in the 2010 National League Division Series.

Larsen has connections to the west-central area. He married Corrine Bruess, formerly of Benson, in 1957 in a ceremony in Benson. Larsen has visited the community in the years since.

Corrine was in town last weekend after the passing of her brother, Elroy. She was with family at a Benson bar and grill last Friday night when she was introduced to Lee Baker, another Benson native and the founder of the Jim Mills Memorial Golf Tournament, the 11th-annual edition of which was played last Saturday at the Benson Golf Club.


Corrine heard the tournament raised money to fund scholarships at Benson High School and said her husband would surely want to help.

The next day, Baker received an autographed print of a photograph taken during Larsen’s iconic perfect game and it was included among several items up for bid in a silent auction.

The winning bid was $700.

“Corrine heard about the tournament and immediately chimed in, ‘Don would want to give an autographed photograph, as a fundraiser,’” Baker said. “We couldn’t believe her generosity, but she was determined and immediately made arrangements to get it to us the following morning.”

Each year, in memory of former BHS athlete Jim Mills, the tournament organizers give two $500 scholarships to graduating male and female seniors and another $500 to a school organization, whose members help out on the day of the tournament.

“We did not get to meet Don, I regret,” Baker said. “But I will say that his wife is about the nicest person I have ever met, and it’s obvious that they are both extremely generous.”

Don and Corrine are in-laws to Evelyn Bruess of Willmar, whose late husband Roger is Corrine’s brother. - Tom Larson

On the fly

n The Hot Hunger Run/Walk and 1-mile fun run is 8 a.m. this Saturday from Eagle Lake Lutheran, north of town. Ageless runner Frosty Peterson, who has helped promote the event, said the post-race breakfast won’t be beat. Also hosting are Faith Lutheran Church, Peace Lutheran and Trinity/West Lake Johanna Lutheran Parish to support local food shelves and ELCA World Hunger.

n At Zebulon, N.C., on Tuesday, Jordan Smith scored three times on a double and two walks raising his average back to .275 as the Class A Carolina Mudcats beat the Potomac Nationals a second night in a row.

n Head Concordia College football coach Terry Horan, a 1984 Willmar grad, always recruits his home area thoroughly for the incoming Cobber class. He seems to have done especially well this year. Here’s the list of recruits from area campuses: Matt Ahrndt, QB, Benson; Alex Grove, QB, Willmar; Dylan Hoerchler, WR, and Logan Jacobs, line, ACGC; Luke Magnuson, Andy McDonnell, both line, Grant Vagle, LB, all NLS; Taylor Thissen, WR, MACCRAY; Logan Tillma, line, and Corbin Schwartz, DB, both LQPV; Devan Schliemann, RB, Litchfield. The Cobbers open Sept 7 at Jake Christiansen Stadium vs. Jamestown College. The Cobbers averaged 4,839 fans per game in 1012, fifth highest in DIII football. An over $5 million upgrade to the Jake Christiansen complex is in its third phase which is a new locker room that will increase lockers from the current 70 to 140.

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