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TRIATHLON HAILED AS 'LARGEST, MOST SUCCESSFUL'

May 4, 2003 – Coordinators, volunteers and athletes were unanimous Sunday in their praise for what was termed "the best race ever" as the 15th annual event now known as the St. Croix Half Ironman Triathlon became history.
"The race went great," race director Tom Guthrie said as he dismantled the finish line at the end of King Street in Christiansted late Sunday afternoon. By then, the crowd had all but disappeared, and the day's sense of excitement and anticipation had turned to one of completion and relief.
Thousands had gathered in town earlier to watch the race's finale.
Craig Alexander, 29, of Australia, took the men's professional title and the $50,000 prize purse — with a winning time of 4:08:13. He was followed by Shane Reed, with a time of 4:08:23, and Richie Cunningham, at 4:09:33.
In the women's professional division, three-time winner Joanna Zieger's title was usurped by Sue Bartholomew William, who won with a time of 4:37:31. Zieger came in second at 4:41:06 and in third place was Fiona Docherty at 4:51:56.
For overall results, see the St. Croix Half Iron Man statistics.
Guthrie said everything ran smoothly, with no major surprises. "There were the usual bike injuries, but that's to be expected," he said. Two athletes were taken to Juan F. Luis Hospital, and several others were treated at the medical tent set up in the yard at Fort Christiansvaern.
The race began in the early morning hours with a 2 kilometer (1.24 mile) swim, followed by a 90 km (56 mile) bike race and a 21 km (13.1 mile) marathon run. Results for 501 participants were posted as of Sunday night on the Web site.
There also was a short course consisting of a 750-meter swim, 20-kilometer bike race and a 5-kilometer run, which was not affiliated with the Ironman events.
Alexander finished in eighth place last year but was recuperating from the chicken pox, he said, and wasn't quite up to speed. This year he was in better health and ready to tackle the competition. He said pacing himself was intrinsic to finishing first. "You can run out of steam — you've got to concentrate and make sure you're still sticking to the game plan," he said.
Miles Sperber, head of Project St. Croix, the not-for-profit organization that produces the race, lauded the outcome of the event. "There really weren't any setbacks," he said. "The athletes really love coming to St. Croix, and it was wonderful having the locals there cheering them on."
The triathlon also administered a much-needed economic shot in the arm to St. Croix's embattled economy, Sperber said, making a "conservative" estimate that the event put about $2 million into circulation over the last few weeks.
"The restaurants were packed; the stores were packed," Sperber said. "This is by far the largest and most successful race we've ever had."
Sporting events could be a great way to help St. Croix's economy, and Project St. Croix will soon forward a proposal to the government that could help "turn St. Croix into an event destination," Sperber said.
He pointed out that corporate sponsors are sorely needed, and were especially difficult to get this year for the triathlon because of economic problems on the island.
The V.I. government is one of the event's biggest sponsors, giving $100,000 each year toward its production, Sperber said. Innovative Communication Corp. is the next-largest sponsor; it gave $15,000 this year.
He said the nearly 800 athletes bring their family and friends to the island with them, and that several local hotels had been booked solid recently. One of them, Divi Carina Bay Resort, sponsored the awards ceremony and banquet for the triathletes Sunday evening.
A huge crowd of racers turned out for the dinner, and while many seemed a little weary, they were for the most part a jovial bunch.
Leslie Smith and fellow athlete Beth Jones are neighbors in Boston and participated for the first time in the women's amateur event for ages 40-44. "We both went into it planning only to finish," Smith said. "We came down here with no clue what we were doing, but ended up having the most wonderful time. It was a tough course."
Smith finished first in her age group, and Jones placed seventh.
For the last three years, the triathlon has been affiliated with the Ironman World Championships, offering 30 qualifying slots for the Hawaii Ironman World Championships, 10 for Ironman USA Lake Placid and 10 for Suburu Ironman Canada .
The St. Croix course has been called one of the toughest in the circuit, with the North Shore's steep hill dubbed "The Beast" widely regarded as the toughest challenge for the bicycling racers.
That was the assessment Sunday of the first-place men's amateur division winner, Jan Sibbersen, 27, of Germany, who placed seventh overall.
"It was a great race," he said. "The conditions were not as bad as they have been the last couple of years."
But when asked what the hardest part was, Sibbersen said resolutely: "The Beast."
"It wasn't so bad the last couple of years," he said. But this time, "the Beast really hurt."
Even so, Sibbersen said, he looks forward to next fall's Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.

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May 4, 2003 - Coordinators, volunteers and athletes were unanimous Sunday in their praise for what was termed "the best race ever" as the 15th annual event now known as the St. Croix Half Ironman Triathlon became history.
"The race went great," race director Tom Guthrie said as he dismantled the finish line at the end of King Street in Christiansted late Sunday afternoon. By then, the crowd had all but disappeared, and the day's sense of excitement and anticipation had turned to one of completion and relief.
Thousands had gathered in town earlier to watch the race's finale.
Craig Alexander, 29, of Australia, took the men's professional title and the $50,000 prize purse -- with a winning time of 4:08:13. He was followed by Shane Reed, with a time of 4:08:23, and Richie Cunningham, at 4:09:33.
In the women's professional division, three-time winner Joanna Zieger's title was usurped by Sue Bartholomew William, who won with a time of 4:37:31. Zieger came in second at 4:41:06 and in third place was Fiona Docherty at 4:51:56.
For overall results, see the St. Croix Half Iron Man statistics.
Guthrie said everything ran smoothly, with no major surprises. "There were the usual bike injuries, but that's to be expected," he said. Two athletes were taken to Juan F. Luis Hospital, and several others were treated at the medical tent set up in the yard at Fort Christiansvaern.
The race began in the early morning hours with a 2 kilometer (1.24 mile) swim, followed by a 90 km (56 mile) bike race and a 21 km (13.1 mile) marathon run. Results for 501 participants were posted as of Sunday night on the Web site.
There also was a short course consisting of a 750-meter swim, 20-kilometer bike race and a 5-kilometer run, which was not affiliated with the Ironman events.
Alexander finished in eighth place last year but was recuperating from the chicken pox, he said, and wasn't quite up to speed. This year he was in better health and ready to tackle the competition. He said pacing himself was intrinsic to finishing first. "You can run out of steam -- you've got to concentrate and make sure you're still sticking to the game plan," he said.
Miles Sperber, head of Project St. Croix, the not-for-profit organization that produces the race, lauded the outcome of the event. "There really weren't any setbacks," he said. "The athletes really love coming to St. Croix, and it was wonderful having the locals there cheering them on."
The triathlon also administered a much-needed economic shot in the arm to St. Croix's embattled economy, Sperber said, making a "conservative" estimate that the event put about $2 million into circulation over the last few weeks.
"The restaurants were packed; the stores were packed," Sperber said. "This is by far the largest and most successful race we've ever had."
Sporting events could be a great way to help St. Croix's economy, and Project St. Croix will soon forward a proposal to the government that could help "turn St. Croix into an event destination," Sperber said.
He pointed out that corporate sponsors are sorely needed, and were especially difficult to get this year for the triathlon because of economic problems on the island.
The V.I. government is one of the event's biggest sponsors, giving $100,000 each year toward its production, Sperber said. Innovative Communication Corp. is the next-largest sponsor; it gave $15,000 this year.
He said the nearly 800 athletes bring their family and friends to the island with them, and that several local hotels had been booked solid recently. One of them, Divi Carina Bay Resort, sponsored the awards ceremony and banquet for the triathletes Sunday evening.
A huge crowd of racers turned out for the dinner, and while many seemed a little weary, they were for the most part a jovial bunch.
Leslie Smith and fellow athlete Beth Jones are neighbors in Boston and participated for the first time in the women's amateur event for ages 40-44. "We both went into it planning only to finish," Smith said. "We came down here with no clue what we were doing, but ended up having the most wonderful time. It was a tough course."
Smith finished first in her age group, and Jones placed seventh.
For the last three years, the triathlon has been affiliated with the Ironman World Championships, offering 30 qualifying slots for the Hawaii Ironman World Championships, 10 for Ironman USA Lake Placid and 10 for Suburu Ironman Canada .
The St. Croix course has been called one of the toughest in the circuit, with the North Shore's steep hill dubbed "The Beast" widely regarded as the toughest challenge for the bicycling racers.
That was the assessment Sunday of the first-place men's amateur division winner, Jan Sibbersen, 27, of Germany, who placed seventh overall.
"It was a great race," he said. "The conditions were not as bad as they have been the last couple of years."
But when asked what the hardest part was, Sibbersen said resolutely: "The Beast."
"It wasn't so bad the last couple of years," he said. But this time, "the Beast really hurt."
Even so, Sibbersen said, he looks forward to next fall's Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.

Publisher's note : Like the St. Croix Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much -- and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice ... click here.