Whether it be luck, skill, determination or some combination of the three, there’s no denying that Jeff Symonds has what it takes to be a winner.
This weekend, he proved it to his hometown of Penticton yet again at the 30th Peach Classic Triathlon, with his fourth first-place win in five years — he didn’t compete in the Peach Classic in 2010.
Symonds won the triathlon with a time of 2:00:24, beating Vernon’s Nathan Champness’ second best time of 2:03:06. Symond was nearly five minutes slower than the 1:55:41 time he ran last year, where he beat his closest competitor by nearly 10 minutes.
Finishing first on the women’s side of things, Kamloops’s Yvonne Timewell finished 17th overall with 2:26:17, followed a mere 23 seconds later by Vernon’s Sarah Clark.
Timewell said she and Clark are often finishing close to one another in the various races they take part in — in one half Iron Man, finishing within 15 seconds of one another.
Her lead was put into jeopardy in the last leg of the race, she said, when she realized Clark was hot on her trail.
“In the first section of the run I was kind of complacent, and then someone said, ‘Oh there’s a woman behind you,’ and then I turned around and I saw her and she was right there,” Timewell said. “The last five kilometres I was running scared.”
In the sprint distance, Calgary’s Calvin Zaryski finished first with 1:10:22. Erica Moser-Reschreit of Vernon took first place on the women’s side, finishing sixth overall with 1:18:56.
This year’s race featured a new route, taking the athletes onto the Kettle Valley Railway trail over looking Penticton and Okanagan Lake. Race director Sarah Johnston said the new route was well-received.
“I think they enjoyed it, especially the run; heading up Vancouver hill and out onto the KVR, it’s a lot safer for the athletes,” she said. “They’re out of traffic’s way, it’s super scenic, they’re looking right over the lake and running through orchards.”
However, the day wasn’t without its issues. During the swim portion of the race, officials from Triathlon B.C. ruled that the water of Okanagan Lake was so warm the use of wetsuits wasn’t allowed, causing some participants to drop out of the race.
As well, the event was marked with a tinge of sadness. The race was dedicated to Doug Bentley, one of the founding members of the Penticton Pounders running club who passed away in January. Bentley was often involved in the Peach Classic, returning to the race when he was 50, 60 and 70 years old, winning his division each time.
Over the 30 years the race has been in existence, Steve King’s presence as an announcer has been a constant. He said over the years, he has seen triathlons become more popular and Penticton become a development site for top-quality triathletes.
“This place has not only become a home of great organizers, but also wonderful triathletes,” he said. “We have the best volunteers around, the best organization and some of the best athletes in the world, not just in the county.”