SKOWHEGAN — Organizers of the fourth annual Lake George Regional Park sprint triathlon on Sunday will honor local first responders and commemorate victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in ceremonies before the race.

Race director Kelly Coughlin, of co-host Somerset Sports and Fitness, said public safety will be the focus of the race involving swimming, biking and running.

“All of our fire departments, Skowhegan police, Somerset County sheriffs, all the EMS services in the area — they are all taking a part in this triathlon this year,” Coughlin said. “Police are doing traffic control for the bike and run course. Both fire departments — Canaan and Skowhegan — will be out on the water with boats doing swim safety.”

Derek Ellis, the park resource manager, and Bob McGourty, the park’s director, said there will be more than 100 race participants and by the end of the day, close to 1,000 volunteers and spectators.

The race also is sanctioned officially by USA Triathlon, the sport’s governing body, through which members accumulate points for national ranking. Some of the participants are professional athletes and want that sanctioning body to recognize the Lake George triathlon as a professional event.

Participants will swim in four staggered waves of people from the east side of the park, on the Canaan/Skowhegan town line, to the west side of the lake — about 500 meters. They then will pick up their own bicycles and pedal across U.S. Route 2 to Oak Pond Road, River Road and over the Hinckley bridge and down U.S. Route 201, traveling 14.5 miles to Somerset Sports, where they will ditch their bikes and run another 3.6 miles into Skowhegan and back.

Parts of U.S. Route 2 will be reduced to one lane, with Skowhegan police and county deputies managing traffic for the biking portion of the event. Runners will use the breakdown lane on U.S. Route 201, so traffic will not be impeded.

The fastest individual time will be about 1 hour and 45 minutes for the entire course. The average age of a triathlete is about 40, Ellis said, and about 60 percent of the participants will be women, 40 percent men.

The top four men, top four women and top four teams will receive 9/11 commemorative canoe paddles bearing the words “We Will Never Forget,” in memory of the people who died in the attacks 15 years ago. The Leather Neck Honor Guard will conduct a ceremony about 8:30 a.m. Sunday before the race, and the National Anthem will be sung by vocalist Janet Delile, to be followed by a moment of silence.

Because the event is USAT-sanctioned, each participant has to buy a one-day $15 license that insures them and makes them eligible for points for national ranking.

“The whole idea of this is that it’s a fundraiser for Lake George,” Coughlin said.

After expenses last year, the park raised about $3,200 from the triathlon, one of the park’s many fundraisers, which also include dinners and auctions, private donations and the annual Winter Carnival and ice fishing derby. Ellis said the nonprofit park needs about $150,000 annually “just to keep the gates open.”

Coughlin said a triathlon is a “bucket list” item for many participants; they do it once and never do it again.

“They go watch one of their family members or they see it on television and say, ‘Hey, if they can do it, I can do it,'” she said. “Plus there’s groups that get together and Facebook pages for teams and they all come out and swim or run together.”

Participants this year come from every state in New England, with two people from Canada. Many of the people in the triathlon are local people who are active and physically fit, Ellis said.

“It’s community members supporting a community park,” he said. “Everybody is so friendly it becomes a little community. It’s really cool how it works.”

Lake George was a youth camp — Camp Modin — for years before the park was established in 1993.

The state bought the land and leased it to operators of the park, which straddles the Skowhegan-Canaan municipal boundary. The park is leased to both towns and run by a nonprofit group, Lake George Corp. Including land purchased in 2002 with money from the Land for Maine’s Future program and foundation grants, the park is now a 320-acre destination with swimming beaches, boat launches, hiking trails and miles of cross-country ski trails.

McGourty said the triathlon is another important aspect of Skowhegan becoming a stop for visitors and tourists looking for fun things to do.

“It starts to make Skowhegan, to some extent, another destination point,” he said. “If you look from Aug. 11 to Sept. 11, you have the Skowhegan State Fair, the New Balance tent sale, the Brew Fest last weekend and the triathlon. In 30 days in the Greater Skowhegan area, you’ve got a lot of stuff going on.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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