Courtesy photo

About 1,000 Cal Poly volunteers watched nearly 7,500 athletes compete with enthusiasm inspired by their remarkable dedication and vigor – or with languor inspired by 80-degree heat and no shade – at this year’s Avia Wildflower Triathlons over the weekend.

The courses sprawled around Lake San Antonio in Bradley, along various roads lining the lake, and including hills that competitors had a hard time with.

Around 80 Cal Poly triathletes competed, most in the collegiate races Sunday. Their difficult training and painful racing paid off at the finish line, evidenced by the looks on their faces at the end.

“Many people think triathlons are an individual sport, and yes, I did cross the finish line by myself, but it is because of the team that I am here,” said Diane Zaida, a member of the Cal Poly tri team.

She finished the collegiate course in 3 hours, 7 minutes amidst other members of the team, which won the team competition in Sunday’s collegiate race, an Olympic-distance triathlon including a 1.5-kilometer swim, 40 kilometers of biking and a 10-kilometer run. Evan Rudd paced the Cal Poly men by finishing in 2 hours, 9 minutes, good enough for second in the men’s collegiate division. He was followed by Chris Jackson (in fifth, at 2 hours, 12 minutes) and Jeff Thompson (in 13th, at 2 hours, 19 minutes).

Leading the Cal Poly women was Patricia Laverty, who took fifth in the women’s collegiate division, at 2 hours, 33 minutes. Not far behind were Shana Strange, in seventh at 2 hours, 38 minutes and Hannah Tillman, in 10th at 2 hours, 41 minutes.

Cal Poly’s performance came on the heels of finishing 16th at the collegiate nationals, which were held April 19 in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Winners of the professional races were Australian Chris McCormack, a four-time Wildflower winner, and Samantha McGlone, who won last year.

McCormack surged past Spain’s Eneko Llanos in the last mile of the race to tie his record of 4 hours, 33 seconds for the half-Ironman on Saturday. McGlone also tied her record, of 4:31:38 for the 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike and 13.1-mile run.

Wildflower 2008 featured a number of well-known and amazing athletes, including Sara Reinertsen, the first woman to finish the Ford Ironman Triathlon World Championship with a prosthetic leg. She is also a spokesperson for Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF), for which funds were raised at the races over the weekend. Dozens of racers for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training raced in teams as well.

Volunteers from Cal Poly had a lot of work to do at the races, including keeping hundreds of spectators out of the way of the racers and cleaning up the site at Sunday’s end.

Volunteers got the chance to enjoy themselves as well, camping Friday and Saturday nights in Beach City along the lake.

Bands including Still Time, The Little Heroes and The Vain performed right at the camp site, and free food was provided for volunteers, perhaps to make up for the fact that they were woken up around 5 a.m. each morning to begin their work.

A number of booths made available live music, cheap food and the latest gear for participants and spectators.

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