COLUMBIA — As the sun was rising early Sunday morning, the scene at Stankowski Field was bustling.
From atop a trailer, loudspeakers blared descriptions of the athletes and the preparations. Participants waited in line to check in at tents. Volunteers marked their legs and upper arms with numbers. As they warmed up, strangers talked with one another.
Sunday’s TriZou triathlon drew more than 700 participants from 10 different states, both young, like Tate Cooper, 11, and old, like Roy Fleschman, 73. At 5 a.m., the people started to arrive on MU’s campus. At 7 a.m., they filed into the MU Aquatics Center to begin the race.
The athletes swam 440 yards and then ran barefoot back to Stankowski Field, where they grabbed their shoes and transitioned onto their bikes. Next came two seven-mile laps through south Columbia. After returning to Stankowski, they dropped their bikes and began a three-mile run on the MU campus.
Just more than 56 minutes and 20 seconds after pushing off the wall of the pool, Andrew Starykowicz, a 27-year-old professional from Lake Zurich, Ill., crossed the finish line in first place. Thirteen seconds later, world-renowned triathlete Simon Lessing finished
Although Lessing, a four-time World Triathlon champion from South Africa, didn’t win the race, he said he appreciated competing in Columbia.
“You can come to any race and it’s always going to offer a different experience and it’s always going to be unique,” said Lessing, 39, who retired from competitive triathlons last year. “An example today is obviously doing the format of having a (indoor) pool swim. I’ve never done that before, and I’ve done this sport all my life. You will always, wherever you go, have these little unique things that are thrown at you, so that’s obviously what makes it interesting and keeps you coming back.”
Starykowicz says he enjoys the camaraderie of the triathlon community.
“In the sport of triathlon, there’s not much money in it, or at all,” he said. “It’s about having fun and meeting people, enjoying people. There’s a great group of older people, younger people and everybody alike.”
Mark Livesay, owner of Columbia’s Ultramax Events and the TriZou race coordinator, said it was special for the non-professional participants to compete alongside Lessing and Starykowicz.
“It’s great to be on the course, even though you’re not up there, it’s nice to be in the mix with those guys,” he said.
Lessing said he came to Columbia because he likes seeing different places, and Sunday was the first time he competed in Missouri. Fleschman, the 73-year old participant from Kansas City, was impressed by Lessing.
“He’s really a super-nice guy,” Fleschman said. “He was signing people’s race numbers and stuff ... I’d like to get a picture with him.”