The inaugural Southern Firecracker Triathlon brought 54 competitors to Grenada last Saturday as athletes from 12 different states took part in a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride and closed the competition with a 13.1-mile run.
Race director Thomas Walls said Monday that he was pleased about how the race went and the hospitality of the people of Grenada showed the racers and members of his staff.
“I want to thank everyone that helped with the race,” Walls said. “Everyone from the Corps of Engineers and their work to let us use the lake. The Grenada County Sheriff’s Office, Grenada Police Department, Grenada Fire Department, Tallahatchie County Sheriff’s Department and Mississippi National Guard helped with the bike and run course.”
Walls also praised the people of Grenada for their support of those taking part in the competition.
“The local support from the people of Grenada was outstanding,” he said. “We had people cheering on the athletes and that is what makes an event like this successful. There was a case where an RV came up and asked what was going on and began cheering on the athletes.”
Grenada Tourism Director Gary Worsham heard nothing but positive comments from those attending the event.
“Everyone I talked to said it was the most organized event they had ever attended,” Worsham said. “Every area stretching from security to volunteer support was outstanding. They said they loved the course and intended to come back next year.”
When the day was done, Robert Langer of Chicago, Ill., came away with the championship. He finished the 70.3-mile course in just under five hours with a time of 4:53:27.9.
Second place went to Matt Layne of Germantown, Tenn., with a time of 4:56:14.9. Third place went to Aaron Ford of Saltillo at 5:00:49.1. The fourth-place finisher was Grenadian, Dr. Rafe Armstrong, who had a time of 5:06:20. Walker Burrow of Memphis, Tenn., finished the day fifth with a time of 5:08.57.4.
The story of the event may have been from 72-year old Robert Turner of Vincennes, Ind., who completed the race in just over nine hours.
Armstrong was among the many athletes that were pleased with the organization of the event.
“I had multiple people tell me that it was one of the best organized and supported races they’ve ever been to, and these are seasoned athletes and I have to concur with that,” he said. “Thomas (Walls) did an exceptional job of organizing the event. From all the different law enforcement entities and other volunteers, the race was an outstanding success.”
Armstrong finished in ninth place in the swim but made up tremendous ground in the bike race with a first-place finish in with a time of 2:29:26.6.
“My swim was 4-5 minutes slower than it should have been,” he said. “I biked quite well with the best time of the day earning some extra cash.”
The heat, along with the extra effort in the bike run took its toll on Armstrong in the 13.1-mile run.
“The last 20 minutes of the run were tough and I had to do some walking,” he said. “I started the run in third place and was in second place for a short period of time. At the end, I was passed by two strong competitors and finished fourth.”
Rafe’s wife, Kathy, finished second overall in the women’s group with a time of 5:58. Rusty Harlow, another Grenadian, was sixth in the 50-59 age group. He had a time of 7:38:447.2.
Walls said that he plans to bring the triathlon back to Grenada next year.
“I had so many athletes come to me when it was over and say they were coming back next year,” he concluded. “We want to bring it back bigger and better with 200 competitors.”