This August, triathletes ranging from professionals to the amateur-next-door, as well as hundreds of spectators and volunteers, will return to Southwestern Michigan for the second annual Whirlpool Steelhead Triathlon. The half Ironman race will again qualify 30 finishers for North American Ironman events.
In 2003, more than 700 adults and youths swam, cycled and ran their way around greater Benton Harbor/St. Joseph in the inaugural event.
"Last year was great," triathlon organizer Mike Ryan said. "The athletes came from all over the country and loved the course. The weather was rainy, but it wasn't cold. We expect roughly 1,000 athletes this year."
The triathlon itself will be held on Sunday, Aug. 1, but related activities make the Steelhead a weekend athletic festival. And with the Western Amateur Golf Tournament in town at the same time, the St. Joseph/Benton Harbor area will be a sports hub that weekend, offering an athletic event for any taste.
The Whirlpool Steelhead Triathlon starts at 7 a.m. with a 1.2-mile swim in Lake Michigan with waves expected to be one to three feet high. If the lake's current is flowing north to south, athletes will start the race from Rocky Gap County Park in Benton Township. If the current is flowing south to north, swimmers will enter the water at Tiscornia Park in St. Joseph. No matter where the swim leg starts, it will end at Jean Klock Park in Benton Harbor. From there, participants start their 56-mile bike ride through rural Berrien and Van Buren counties. The third leg, a 13.2-mile run, courses along the St. Joseph River ending at Jean Klock Park.
The event will qualify the top participants to enter the Ironman Wisconsin 2004, Ironman Canada 2004 or the Ironman USA Lake Placid (NY) 2005. The Steelhead will produce up to 10 entrants for each Ironman event.
Last year's male and female Steelhead winners were David Forsee of Indianapolis and Cheryl Klotkowski of Dearborn, Mich.
The Fifth Third Bank Kids Triathlon will be held on Saturday and will start and end at the St. Joseph River Yacht Club in St. Joseph. A start time has not been set.
Youngsters from ages 7 to 10 will swim 100 meters, bicycle four kilometers and run one kilometer. These distances will be doubled for youth from ages 11 to 14. Youths 15 and older are not eligible for the Kids Triathlon.
Registration for the Whirlpool Steelhead Triathlon and the Kids Triathlon is open. For registration information for either event, call 773-404-2372 or visit www.caprievents.com .
In addition to the triathlon events, the Benton Harbor Arts District is hosting several other activities. Downtown Benton Harbor will hold an old- fashioned arts and crafts flea market, sports expo, wine-tasting, music and a movie in the park. The Arts District will also hold the first Chef's Carb Challenge that will pit local chefs against each other to see who can create the best carbohydrate meal for athletes and the public.
Last year's triathlon and related events brought an estimated $1 million into the greater Twin Cities area. Ryan said this year's triathlon weekend should bring in about $1.5 million.
Sponsors of the triathlon and festival include Benton Harbor-based Whirlpool Corporation, the world's leading manufacturer and marketer of home appliances, Pizza Hut, Fifth Third Bank, Holiday Inn Express, Lakeland Regional Health System, Campbell Ford Lincoln Mercury, Meijer, Cycle & Fitness bicycle shop of St. Joseph, Cornerstone Alliance, Well Fit, TYR, FastTimes, American Express, Dr. Tom Armstrong, DDS, Czar's, Michigan Sports & Fitness, Windy City Sports and Triathlete Magazine.
The Twin Cities organizing committee, headed by St. Joseph natives Mike Ryan and Tom Ziebart, is working with Chicago-based Capri Events and its president, Jan Caille, who annually produce the Chicago Triathlon, the world's largest.
Around 500 volunteers are needed for the three-day festival. For more information, call the volunteer hotline at 773-404-7571 or visit www.caprievents.com .
SOURCE: Whirlpool Corporation
CONTACT: Steve Duthie of Whirlpool Corporation, +1-269-923-3373, or