Bookended by thunderstorms and heavy rain, the finale of this summer's 20th annual Charleston Sprint Triathlon Series featured series-winning efforts from 22-year-old David Burley and 25-year-old Mary Paulsen of Columbia at James Island County Park, where the weather cleared long enough to keep the roads dry.
Burley edged reigning CSTS champion Adam Martin for the title, which is based on the total number of points in three of the five races in the series. Burley beat the 38-year-old Martin by 19 seconds in Sunday's race, which offers double points toward the title.
However, Gregg Cromer, 41, of Summerville, beat Burley by more than a minute with a time of 57 minutes, 4 seconds, in what was only Cromer's second CSTS event of the season. Cromer did so by doggedly picking off the four guys who were ahead of him out of the 600-yard lake swim.
"My goal in these races is to lose as little time as possible on the swim because I'm not a good swimmer," recalls Cromer, noting that when he could see three of the four competitors on Riverland Drive during the 12.8-mile bike leg, he knew he had a chance to win.
Though he passed Burley near the end of the bike leg, Cromer said he was still worried because Burley is a tough runner and "could chase me down" on the 3.1-mile run.
For Cromer, Sunday's race was his 10th of the year and a tuneup for a much more prestigious race on Sept. 12, the International Triathlon Union Short Course World Championship in Budapest, Hungary. He will be joined by two other locals, Hugh Myrick and Marshall Wakat, who all qualified at the USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals in Tuscaloosa, Ala., last year.
On the women's side, a series championship showdown between Paulsen and Bridget Campbell of Bluffton, both of whom had won two CSTS events, didn't materialize. Campbell, who was registered and expected to race, was a no-show. Campbell was the likely favorite, having beaten Paulsen in both of Campbell's wins.
The 25-year-old Paulsen competed in all five triathlons and won the first, fourth and fifth to take the championship. The former Clemson swimmer used the series as a means of cross-training between two marathons this year. She ran Boston in April and plans to run Chicago in October.
Meanwhile, the fastest women's time Sunday did not belong to Paulsen, but to Marion Minaudo, 32, of Charleston, who signed up to compete in the age group competition rather than the open elite event. She completed the course in 1:03.39.
Sunday's race was marred by a bad accident midway through the competiton.
Melanie Veale-Fortkort, 35, of Summerville, suffered from a head injury and a broken wrist, after she crashed into the back of a vehicle that was unexpectedly stopped near the gatehouse on the road leading into the park. Emergency crews responded and braced her back and neck before taking her to MUSC for treatment.
Friends from Summerville who went to the hospital reported that Veale-Fortkort was conscious but that her memory was "fuzzy."
Charleston Sprint Triathlon Series Champions
(Based on most points three of five races)
OPEN ELITE -- David Burley. Mary Paulsen. MASTERS -- Robert Teachman. Laura Dechamplain. CLYDESDALE (Males 200 pounds-up) -- Rick Christensen. Colleen Scherer. AGE GROUPS: 16-19 -- Thomas Pittman. Audrey Scholtz. 20-24 -- TC Byrne. Casey Kroll. 25-29 -- Josh Lundeby. Mary Terry. 30-34 -- Justin Davis. Marion Minaudo. 35-39 -- Dirk Dewitt. Raina Colton. 40-44 -- Cory Fleming. Caroline Sinkler. 45-49 -- John Peters. Jane West. 50-54 -- William Wiseman. Nancy James. 55-59 -- Rick James. Christine Case. 60-64 -- Rick Widman. Anne Boone. 65-69 -- Marshall Wakat. No female. 70-74 -- Donald Blanchard. No female. 75-79 -- None. 80-84. William Boulter. No female.
CSTS Race No. 5
OPEN ELITE: Male -- Gregg Cromer 57:04, David Burley 58:10, Adam Martin 58:29, Tripp Davis 58:55, Jerry Rothschild 1:00:00. Female -- Mary Paulsen 1:04:57. Erin Boineau 1:08:17. Angela Adams 1:52:51. MASTERS: Robert Teachman 1:00:24. Laura Dechamplain 1:10:01. AGE GROUPS: 16-19 -- Thomas Pittman 1:07:30. Audrey Scholz 1:29:51. 20-24 -- Matt Bare 1:02:28. Casey Kroll 1:11:59. 25-29 -- Tommy Clarke 1:00:46. Mary Terry 1:09:47. 30-34 -- Justin Davis 1:00:12. Marion Minaudo 1:03:39. 35-39 -- Dirk Dewitt 1:01:03. Raina Colton 1:14:33. 40-44 -- Cory Fleming 1:02:25. Caroline Sinkler 1:10:54. 45-49 -- John Peters 1:03:12. Margaret Cochrane 1:13:05. 50-54 -- William Wiseman 1:04:19. Nancy James 1:15:47. 55-59 -- Rick James 1:01:34. Christine Case 1:22:55. 60-64 -- Rick Widman 1:14:26. Anne Boone 1:17:49. 65-69 -- Marshall Wakat. No female. 70-74 -- Donald Blanchard. No female. 75-79 -- None. 80-84 William Boulter. No female.