Jun 26, 2017
WEST SALEM — Both top finishers of the YMCA Got Energy Triathlon bagged homecoming wins Sunday morning.
The 14th running of the annual race, which starts in Lake Neshonoc, had cool conditions throughout, hovering in the mid-50s temperatures for the 8 a.m. starting dip into the lake to swim the first quarter mile. Racers were relieved the water was warmer than the air.
Andrew Ernst, a 22-year old Onalaska native, was the top male finisher for the second year in a row, finishing well ahead of the pack at 1 hour, 3 minutes and 44 seconds.
Ernst, a recent graduate from Wisconsin, finished about a half hour faster than he did in his first YMCA triathlon six years ago. Ernst was on track to hit his target time of an hour and five minutes, aided by the usual 3.1-mile running leg being closer to about 2.7 miles on the sprint-sized course that concludes in Swarthout Park.
“I joined cross country and track in high school because of triathlons,” said Ernst, who started out running races with his younger brother Konrad, who is the varsity heavyweight wrestler at UW-La Crosse.
Ernst’s rooted interest in cycling helped him burgeon as a triathlete, where the longest legs are spent on a bike. As an undergrad, Ernst was a member of a running club at Madison and got the chance to race in some national triathlons.
“There I was just a number in the crowd,” said Ernst, who says his biggest improvements have been his transitions, which are easily overlooked in triathlons. Knowing how to precisely get out of the water and onto a bike are vital for a top finish.
“I could train for a long time to get 30 seconds faster on the bike,” Ernst said. “But I could cut a similar amount by just not putting on my socks, or something small like that.”
JAGIELO: Deana Jagielo, a 26 year old from Hokah, Minn., was the first female to cross the finish line in 1 hour, 17 minutes and 39 seconds.
Jagielo and her husband Anthony, whom she refers to as her husband/triathlon coach, make the trip back every year to run in the YMCA race and visit her family. Jagielo started running triathlons about six years ago, and now has ran so many she’s lost count. She is currently training in hopes of qualifying for the Ironman World Championships in South Africa.
GILLIES: The homecoming for the winners was more of a home race for John Gillies, who finished seventh overall and second in his age range of 50-54 at 1:14. Gillies and his La Crosse running crew call themselves the Bluff Busters, who use the bluffs for training ground for triathlons.
Gillies and the Bluff Busters make up a part of the welcoming network of local triathletes who take part in the setting up the YMCA race. Gillies appreciates the everydayness that exists in triathlons more than single exercise competitions, like having to bring your own bicycle to the race.
“Some people just take the bike they ride to work, put their tag on it and are ready to race,” said Gillies, who had two daughters waiting for him at the finish line.