Wawasee Kiwanis Triathlon: Schowe, Meyer Top Fields

Wawasee Kiwanis Triathlon overall men’s winner Mark Meyer approaches the finish line outside the Syracuse Community Center Saturday. (Photos by James Costello)

SYRACUSE — The overall female winner of the 10th annual Wawasee Kiwanis Triathlon has some advice for those considering becoming triathletes themselves.

“It takes a lot out of you. Don’t do it,” said Diana Schowe with a laugh after clocking 1:14.24.8 to beat out second-place women’s finisher Alexandria Day by a fraction of a second Saturday.

That may seem like strange advice coming from not only a seven-time All-American triathlete but a full-time professional triathlon coach, but Schowe knows exactly how much endurance sports can take from you.

The 53-year-old — who has competed at pretty much every long distance race possible, from sprint to Olympic triathlons, to marathons to ultra-marathons to Ironman competitions — is coming off a knee replacement surgery just seven months ago, after all. In fact, she’s now had both knees replaced as well as a thumb joint on her left hand, and she had surgery to remove bone spurs just a year ago.

So why keep doing it?

“The people,” she said. “It’s my job too — I’m a full-time triathlon coach so I come to show them not everybody wins, and that’s OK. But don’t run just to finish, do your best.”

“The pride in yourself is just amazing,” she added. “I have a saying: ‘You can do whatever you choose. You just have to choose to do it.’”

Schowe overtook Day — who wound up as the women’s 20-24 age group winner with a time of 1:14.59.8 — during the 13.49-mile bike portion of the race. A 2009 Time Trial National Championship cycling winner, the bike is Schowe’s specialty, and she clocked 37.27.3 during the second leg Saturday, the fastest women’s leg by far and third fastest overall behind overall male winner Mark Meyer’s 36.3 time and male 35-39 age group winner Matthew Hauck’s 37.28.

Overall women’s winner Diana Schowe transitions from the bike to the run Saturday.

Day clocked 39.20.3 on the bike, meanwhile, and Schowe needed every bit of that nearly two-minute difference to make up for the quarter-mile swim, where Day’s 7:35.5 easily outpaced everyone, both male and female. In fact, the only other athlete to break eight minutes in the swim was male 45-49 age group winner Gene Cruisie with a 7:40 flat time.

Day’s performance in the water isn’t so surprising, though, when one considers her resume as an Indiana University swimmer between 2011-2015.

“I was a swimmer at Indiana University so I kind of wanted to maintain that, but I also like running. My mom is a runner so we started running together,” explained Day of her roots as a triathlete. “I just kind of thought the two would go well together, so why not throw biking in it?”

It’s also not that surprising that Day’s slowest leg came in the bike race.

Alexandria Day, at left, makes the transition from the swim to dry land while other triathletes emerge from Syracuse Lake.

She only took up triathlons this summer, and Saturday’s race was only her second-ever such event after accidentally entering the Olympic-distance triathlon at the Tri Indy race in Indianapolis July 30. She’s still honing her cycling technique, and she doesn’t even own her own bike yet.

“I’ve been riding my stepdad’s bike so I probably need to get seated for an actual, legit bike,” she said. “But the biking is the hardest transition for me just because I’m not really familiar with it so I’ve had to do a lot of research and whatnot for it. And it’s an expensive hobby, so I’ve got to find the funding for that also.”

The men’s winner, Meyer, came all the way from Neenah, Wisc. to assert his dominance over the men’s field Saturday with a blistering 1:05.28.4 time, more than four minutes better than male Masters group winner Mark Witmer’s 1:09.40.5 and male 30-34 group winner Kendrick Oler’s 1:09.49.7.

At one point midway through the bike race, Meyer actually caught up to the pace car. He never relinquished the top position from then on.

“I was in the second wave, and I got out there, and I was like ‘Hey, there’s the pace car. Go catch it,’” he recalled. “So that was my goal, and I went out and I caught it at about seven miles and then got in first and led the rest of the way in the bike and the run.

“It was a good day. Unbelievable for 53 years old.”

Meyer wasn’t in town just to dominate Saturday’s men’s race.

He and wife Marla — Saturday’s female 50-54 age group winner with a 1:15.45.2 stop — were in town to visit Marla’s mother Saturday. The couple have been competing in triathlons together for 32 years and hope to be doing it for years to come, he says.

“All sprint, just to kind of keep our longevity and keep hopefully racing for another 15, 20 years,” he said.

While Meyer and Schowe topped their fields, the team of A Good Day to Try Hard clocked 1:31.16.2 to win their category.

Lyle Schrock, of Warsaw, finished the 5K in 20:45 flat to win the men’s overall medal, while Kate Hanna turned in a 22:31.3 time to win the women’s 5K.

While it was the 10th year of the Wawasee Kiwanis Triathlon, Saturday’s event was the first year for the 5K, which replaced a run-bike-run duathlon this year. About 90 triathletes showed up to compete and roughly 30 runners turned out for the 5K, a significant jump from the duathlon turnout in previous years.

“The triathlon, just a few more (entrants); about on pace for what we normally do, but this is our first year for the 5K and it had a lot more than our duathlon, so I’m glad I made the switch,” said race director Lauren Warner.

Alongside the usual field of competitors, some extraordinary participants also completed the races Saturday. My Team Triumph — a non-profit ride-along program that gives people with disabilities a chance to experience endurance races first-hand through the use of specialized equipment — fielded three teams in the triathlon at Syracuse Lake, while visually-impaired runner Ashley Buss was guided through the 5K race.

My Team Triumph Captain Morgan and her Angels start the run leg of Saturday’s sprint triathlon.

“It’s so cool watching them participate,” said Warner of My Team Triumph. “You can see how much the kids enjoy getting out to do it. The Angels they have are adults that take them around, and I think it’s awesome. And then we had a young lady who is visually impaired. She had somebody lead her through the whole 5K, and she killed it. She did really well.”

Money from Saturday’s races goes back to the community and the Wawasee Kiwanis’ charity projects, which include programs like Boomerang Backpacks, Teen Parents Succeeding, the food pantry and a pair of annual scholarships for Wawasee High School seniors.

“Our whole thing is the money we bring in, we try to keep everything local for local charities around here,” Warner explained. “We put on quite a few things. We do the triathlon, the car show, little things like Breakfast with Santa. We just try to help out the community, so everything usually goes right back to them.”

“I just want to thank all of the volunteers — the parks department, the EMS, fire, police and the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Department,” Warner added. “We could not do this without them, so it’s a huge help from the community, and it’s cool that they support it.”

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