Hayden DiBona, 15, and Jay Upchurch, 35, square off in Charleston Sprint Triathlon finale
Ever since the organizer of the Charleston Sprint Triathlon Series reinstated a points-based championship in 2005, it’s generated competitive mini-dramas for the final race of the year – upping the ante for all-out efforts in the championship.
If you go
What: 23rd Charleston Sprint Triathlon Series Championship race, the fifth and final race of 2013 series, featuring a 600-yard swim, 12-mile bike and 3.1-mile run.
When: 7:15 a.m. Sunday.
Where: James Island County Park.
Registration/packet pick-up: Available 5-7 p.m. Saturday at the park until 400 registrant cap is reached. Packet pick-up also available 6-6:45 a.m. Sunday. (Participants strongly encouraged to pick up packets on Saturday.) There will be no registration on Sunday.
Sunday’s finale of 23rd edition of the five-race series — which features a 600-yard swim, a 12-mile bike and 3.1-mile run at James Island County Park — is no different.
While competitors will be vying for the championship in 33 divisions, from open-elite and age groups to weight-based “Clydesdale” and “Athena” divisions, none rival the showdown on the top of the ticket.
The men’s open elite race pits 15-year-old Hayden DiBona of Mount Pleasant against 35-year-old Jay Upchurch of James Island. Only 10 points separate the two athletes. DiBona beat Upchurch in race No. 1 on May 19. Upchurch beat DiBona in race No. 3 on July 7.
After a photo of Upchurch was posted on the series’ Facebook page on July 7, DiBona posted a comment using the oft-quoted “The Terminator” — “I’ll be back.”
On Tuesday, both confirmed that they not only plan to compete but bring their best game in what may be the last triathlon of the year for each of them. DiBona, a rising sophomore at Academic Magnet High School, needs to focus on cross-country and swimming. Upchurch — first and foremost a runner — wants to shift gears back to racing fast 5Ks, 10Ks and maybe even a winter marathon.
Before that, they have a little triathlon business to finish.
“I’ve never really had a chance to win the series,” said Upchurch, who used to race as an age-grouper and not open-elite. “It would be a good way to finish up the summer in triathlon.”
Both acknowledged the difference in who takes the crown (actually its just a plaque) is about 30 seconds.
DiBona, who came to triathlon a mere year ago from a swimming background, said he must bank enough time on the swim to keep Upchurch, a regular top finisher in local road races, at bay on the bike and run legs. Upchurch chased down DiBona on July 7 with a blistering 17:05 5K split.
“He can take me down running,” admitted DiBona.
While Upchurch has the seasoned training that most top triathletes need to win, DiBona has been fine-tuning his skills with national-level competitions for months. On Aug. 3, he finished eighth overall in the Youth-Junior (ages 13-15) division in the USA Triathlon Youth and Junior Nationals in West Chester, Ohio.
A “role model” — rising Porter-Gaud senior Brent Demarest, 18, of Charleston — finished second in the Junior Elite division of the Nationals.
Besides concentrating on a good lead on the swim, DiBona is confident that his biking, which appears to be the wild card in the matchup, has improved just enough to win an event that means as much, or more, to him than a top 10 finish in a national triathlon event.
“Going to nationals is one thing, but the fact is this is my hometown race,” said DiBona. “And I really want to win it all.”
Series Founder and Executive Race Director Paul King said the point-based series championship format, which requires participants to do at least three races per series, has helped foster excitement among the field, including 170 triathletes who signed up for three or more races.
Most of the 33 divisions for championships will be contended.
In the women’s open-elite division, three triathletes — Stephanie Buffo, 24, of Charleston; Carole Murray, 29, of Ladson; and Janet Carter, 36, of Charleston — are separated by 20 points.
Likewise, four triathletes are lined up to take third place in men’s open elite, including Jim Daniel, Matt Moldenhauer, Eric Ruckel and Dirk Dewitt. All are registered for Sunday’s race.
Reach David Quick at 937-5516 or dquick@ postandcourier.com.