FOSTER — Keet Dailey couldn’t point to one event that was more difficult than another Sunday morning after finishing his race in the Best in the West Triathlon Festival.
Dailey, 19 and a Corvallis native, is in his first year of triathlon competition. His effort in the collegiate men’s division brought him a first-place finish in the Olympic course event.
“Everything in a race like this has its own challenge,” he said. “It’s a great race and a pretty tough course.”
For two days, triathletes from throughout the Northwest and beyond tested their skills in swimming, bicycling and running over various courses that started and finished at Lewis Creek Park at Foster Reservoir in Linn County. Event coordinator Blair Bronson said more than 500 competitors took part in six events, which included Half-Iron and Olympic races, a shorter sprint event, a beginnings race and one designed strictly for kids.
Dailey’s efforts as part of the Oregon State University Triathlon Club had him competing against other college competitors from the University of Oregon, the University of Washington and College of Southern Idaho. His time was also the best overall for the day.
He covered his three events — a 1,500-meter swim, 24.8-mile bike ride and 6.2-mile run — in 1:58:28.0, more than a minute ahead of second-place finisher Jeevan Philip.
The top female finisher was Mairin Peck of the University of Oregon in 2:37:53.4. Kambria Schumacher was the overall top finisher for women in 2:20:44.6. She was the competition’s lone double winner, taking the Sprint race Saturday.
Competitors in the two days of racing ranged in age from under 10 years of age to over 70. Runners were almost evenly divided among men and women, Bronson said.
“We saw some good times out there,” he said. “It’s one of the top age group races in the Northwest and we drew from New York, Colorado, Alaska and other states.”
Bronson said that the event, now in its fourth year, is growing in popularity and bringing in more elite athletes. Included in Saturday’s Sprint race was Lebanon’s Joseph Gulaskey, who recently returned from the World Championships in Canada, where he finished second in the 70-74 age group. He won the Best in the West sprint as well.
“The top three college runners are likely to go on to Nationals and some will be competing in the Iron Man Kona World Championships,” Bronson said.
More than 1,000 people turned out to watch and support the runners. Bronson said that another 100 people volunteered to help with the competition.
“I love this one,” said Dailey, who was competing in his seventh triathlon this year. “It’s a nice challenging run, and it has great community support.”
The event has grown every year, and Bronson expects it will continue to get bigger in 2015.
“We’ve set a goal to keep it growing,” Bronson said. “We are shooting for 700 next year.”