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Triathlon draws more participants

October 6, 2018

While the switch in venue for the 26th annual Katy Triathlon this year to Cane Island proved challenging, it also added up to being satisfying and rewarding.

Paul Kurt, Triathlon co-chair, rates the triathlon as 4.8 out of 5.

“We put on an event that not only brought triathletes out but also brought family members, volunteers and community members out,” he said.

The event had been staged at Firethorne in recent years.

Tweaks are planned, though, to improve the event that attracted more participants than last year and is expected to generate more revenue to allow the Rotary Club of Katy, the group that organized the triathlon with Cane Island, the City of Katy and 30 corporate sponsors who provided funds and/or volunteers.

Final figures aren’t available yet, but Kurt said, “We anticipate having more money for scholarships this year than we did last year.”

Last year the club presented 14 scholarships of $2,000 each to high school students. The club’s Scholarship Committee could decide to award more scholarships this year or to increase the amount of each scholarship, he said.

Some triathlon participants singled out parking as a problem, though. This year’s participants parked at the Merrell Center, with transportation provided via golf carts to the triathlon site. He said efforts are under way to find a parking site closer to Cane Island.

“If for some reason that doesn’t work out, we’ll use vans or school buses or trams,” said Kurt, who co-chaired the triathlon with Lance LaCour. Both are Katy Rotarians. Another tweak might involve providing an opportunity for packet pickup on Friday in addition to the day before the triathlon. Kurt said race-day packet pickup is unlikely though because too much is happening the morning of the race.

Organizers under the guidance of race director David Rainey, who started the triathlon 26 years ago in Cinco Ranch, added events to this year’s competition, including a duathlon and aquabike. The event drew 554 participants this year compared to 348 last year, according to Kurt.

“With the improvements moving forward, we hope to get up to 700 or 750,” he added.

A study shows that approximately 150 of the participants in the race came from outside a 50-mile radius of Katy, he said. Between 8 to 10 people came from out of state to participate. Kurt said that organizers broadened their search during the sign-up period to include the entire state of Texas through websites oriented to runners and triathletes.

“Lance and I want to thank everyone involved for their commitment and participation,” Kurt said.

It wasn’t easy, though.

“On race day (Sept. 23), I was everywhere making sure things were in place,” said Kurt, which followed six months of many hours of work.

He was at Cane Island at 4 a.m. race day checking the transition area, the swim and bike courses to make sure when the first guns were fired to signal the start of competition that everything and everybody was in place.

When Kurt said he agreed to co-chair the event, his top priorities were to ensure that the triathlon would benefit students, would be a quality event and would have the community plugged in.

The smiles of the faces of people and the compliments about the race being one of the best if not the best are rewarding. Hundreds of volunteers worked together from high school students to Rotarians experienced in handling the different event courses.

“I don’t think people realize an event of this magnitude and how many different balls are in the air at the same time especially once the race starts,” said Kurt.

“We’ve got the people who step up during the race. Some have been doing it so long that when an issue comes up they’re pretty good about solving it when it happens. One thing I truly believe is that you can be chairman or co-chair but you’re only as good as the volunteers and Rotarians who are behind you.”

He called both Rotarians and volunteers “incredible.”

“Any time you needed something done, they were there to jump on it immediately.”

Kurt and LaCour will soon call a meeting of key people involved in the organizing of the triathlon to review what happened and to take suggestions on what could be changed or done better. Although a date has yet to be selected for next year, Kurt said this year’s event occurred on a perfect day with blue skies, temperatures in the mid to low 80s and water temperatures about 80 — perfect conditions for triathletes.

Two possible changes mentioned by Kurt include adding a mini triathlon on Saturday for ages 11 and younger and raising standards to make the event an Olympic qualifying triathlon.

Apart from the competitive component, Kurt also spoke about how the triathlon made more people aware of Katy.

“We brought a lot of people to Katy,” he continued, and they were introduced to the city and what it has to offer through various means including a video that highlighted the waterpark, different hotels and different places to eat. Race-day vendors showed what they did and local eateries handed out free food, he said.

karen.zurawski@chron.com

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