DECATUR -- Karla Miller could not have asked for a better way to send off the Rodney T. Miller Lakeside Triathlon.
Saturday saw clear skies, cool temperatures and plenty of parents and supporters present in Nelson Park to cheer on their children.
More than 300 youth and adults were expected to participate Saturday and today in the tenth annual triathlon, which challenges competitors to swim, bike and run their way through Nelson Park and the surrounding area. The triathlon for children 14 and younger was Saturday, while the adult competition will be today.
What set this year’s event, which honors the memory of Rodney T. Miller, a 40-year-old Illinois State Police sergeant from Decatur who was killed in the line of duty in a 2006 traffic accident, was it will be the last on named in his memory.
Karla Miller, his 50-year-old widow who spearheads the event, said the decision has been long and difficult, but for her, it was time to move on and let the triathlon go out in style.
”It’s been beautiful weather, and people are happy,” she said. “It just feels good. It really does.”
Parents began to arrive at the start/finish line right as the sun rose, as 41 children ages 14 and younger participated. Triathletes, ages 10 to 14, were required to swim 250 yards, bicycle 3.4 miles and run one mile. In the Kids Duathlon, children 9 to 1 ran one mile, bicycled 3.4 miles and ran another mile, while kids 5 to 8 did about half that.
Through the sounds of cheers from parents and the ringing of cowbells, the children pushed themselves through Lake Decatur and on the surrounding path.
Among those parents was Fred German of Champaign, who had his phone ready to record as his 11-year-old daughter, Jane, crossing the finish line. As a participant in triathlons himself, German said his daughter’s participation was like father, like daughter.
“I don’t want to pressure her to feel like she has to do these, but she seems to really have fun doing these,” he said.
Clayton Burmeister, 13, and Rachel Simmons, 13, won the triathlon for their age groups, with a time of 25:29.7 and 26:45.5, respectively. Colton Ray, 8, and Brynn Diedrich, 7, won the duathlon for ages 5 to 8 with times of 16:03.6 and 14:52.8, respectively. Jennah Ward and Jd Camillo won the duathlon for ages 9 to 14 with a times of 34:29.7 and 29:43.3, respectively.
Unlike many other participants, who cited their parents doing triathlons as motivation to do one themselves, Clayton's father, Chad Burmeister, said his son had extra motivation to do his first one.
“He did his first one two years ago, and we told him he could get a puppy if he did one,” said Chad Burmeister with a smile, adding that he followed through on the promise.
One of those who wanted to follow in their parent’s footsteps was Ethan Arndt, 8, who took part in the duathlon along with his 5-year-old brother, Braden. Ethan said his father does them and he wanted to do it too, and he especially enjoys the bicycle portion.
“I like to be able to go really fast, faster than normal,” he said.
Event sponsors included Archer Daniels Midland Co., Decatur Athletic Club, Decatur Blue, Decatur Magazine, Herald & Review, Jimmy John’s, Jump Co., Millikin University, Refreshment Services Pepsi, HSHS St. Mary’s Hospital, Speed Lube, Spin City Cycles and WSOY.