SOUTH PORTLAND — The sounds of cowbells, cheers and excited screams filled the Southern Maine Community College campus as the first wave of athletes, all cancer survivors, in the Tri for a Cure triathlon dove into the ocean at Spring Point Light on Sunday morning.

Among the noisiest in the crowd watching the swimmers return were a group of employees from Diversified Communications in Portland who cheered loudly when co-worker Laura Hummell of Portland reached the shore first, well ahead of the pack.

“She is awesome,” said Janice Rogers of South Portland.

Rogers said Hummell had just marked the five-year anniversary of her cancer diagnosis with a clean bill of health and her fellow workers had come out in force for the all-women’s athletic event, which includes a third-of-a-mile swim, 15-mile bicycle course and 3.1-mile run through South Portland and Cape Elizabeth.

Similar scenes were being played out across the campus, where thousands of people gathered to participate or watch.

Many of the 1,400 athletes, more than 130 of them cancer survivors, did the entire course while others, working in teams, broke it up into relays. It took 32 minutes for all 11 waves of athletes to pass the starting line.

The triathlon has raised more than $6.5 million since it began eight years ago, including $1.5 million this year alone.

The speed record was set the first year at 1 hour, 4 minutes and 2 seconds. The light rain that fell Sunday slowed down the times of the athletes this year. The winner was Renee Durgin, 42, of Scarborough with a time of 1:18:32.5.

Four hundred volunteers turned out to help keep the triathlon running. Eric Oberg of Eliot, and his children Camden, 11, and Libby, 6, were handing out water, towels and medals at the finish line, hoping to get a glimpse of wife and mother Christie Oberg, who was running the triathlon for the first time.

“It was a no brainer,” said Eric Oberg of the family’s decision to help out.

A group equipped with lawn chairs, a cooler and plastic bags containing supplies parked themselves at the finish line to cheer cousins Andrea Malconian, a Portland cancer survivor, and Sandra Gradoia of Schaghticoke, New York.

“We have done this before,” said Laura Raposa, another cousin, of Scituate, Massachusetts.

A dribble of athletes who showed up first at the finish line soon gave way to droves.

Heidi Watson of South Portland crossed first, followed by Terrie Hoops, of Bradenton, Florida, and Rebecca Goodwin of North Yarmouth. Goodwin, a 10-year cancer survivor who was doing her sixth Tri for a Cure, went up to Hoops to congratulate her.

“You were a hard cookie to catch,” Goodwin said.


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