Still strong after 22 years

TOMORROW'S regular event for the Coffs Harbour Triathlon Club will mark the 22nd anniversary of the formation of the club.

December 1985 saw the inaugural race when then radio sports reporter Les Rootsey set in motion the embryonic stages of what is now considered one of the leading triathlon clubs in Australia.

To mark the occasion, following tomorrow morning's racing, all former members are invited to join the current triathletes for a barbecue breakfast at the Coffs Harbour Yacht Club.

Over the 22-year history of the Coffs Harbour Triathlon Club there have been many outstanding athletes come through the ranks, and it is anticipated many of those will be in attendance tomorrow, either to go through the motions on the current course or to reminisce over a bacon and egg roll.

Looking back through the history pages of the club, there are many great names that have been members and helped build the club to the successful unit that it is today.

The formative years from 1985 through to the late 1980s were dominated by a multi-sport legend from Dorrigo.

Graeme Baldwin gained international recognition for his exploits in the legendary Speights Coast to Coast race in New Zealand, but locals will remember him as the superman who would ride his bike from Dorrigo to Coffs Harbour, win the triathlon event before riding to Glenreagh to win the cycle club road race, then rounding out his day by cycling home.

Although only racing sparingly with the club, the next impact performer was John Crimson.

An impressive runner, Crimson worked hard on his swim and cycle skills to win almost every event on the North Coast before knee problems saw him eventually retire from the sport.

Coffs' own Tim Kitching was the next in line as the alpha male on the triathlon race course, and went on to represent Australia at several world titles before taking up a running scholarship in the USA.

He has since returned to Coffs and still competes regularly in club events and is capable of recapturing some of his mid 1990s form when he puts his mind to it.

Following hot on Kitching's heels was David Clarke, who upon making the transition from Rugby League as a teenager, went on to win races from sprint distance right through to half ironman.

Clarke spent several years racing as a professional in Europe, prior to returning to Australia to continue his university studies in Brisbane.

More recently, young guns Matt Werrell and Nathan Chiswell have shown the way with some scintillating times on the current course.

Both however have elected to concentrate on cycling, with Werrell in particular racing successfully at the Queensland under 23 road titles earlier in the year.

The club has also had its fair share of dominant female competitors throughout the past 22 years.

Initially it was Louise Williams who showed the way, with Kath Porter also prominent.

During the mid to late 1990s Melissa Bulloch not only came to the fore in triathlon racing, but also set new standards for women runners in the area.

Included in that period was an overall top 10 finish at Ironman Australia, an outright win in the Canberra Marathon and numerous victories in regional races.

Still competing regularly, Bulloch has plans to return to Ironman events next year with a view to racing the World Championships in Hawaii in 2009.

Former surf lifesaving competitor, Alee Sharp successfully turned her attention to triathlons resulting in some slick times, culminating in national selection.

Sharp also had a stint racing on the international circuit, but this was cut short by a nasty bike crash.

Hopefully she will return to that level in the near future.

Undoubtedly the most successful Coffs Harbour Triathlon Club product to date is current world title bronze medal holder Emma Moffatt.

At this stage, Moffatt is one of the main contenders for a Beijing Olympics berth in 2008 and only needs to maintain her current form to achieve that goal.

The current crop of youngsters only need to look as far as their clubmates, both past and present, to see where the sport of triathlon is capable of taking them.

The likes of Aaron Newman, Nathan Stubbs and Katrina Braszell are the future pace-setters of the sport in Coffs Harbour but tomorrow they will have the opportunity to rub shoulders with those who have shown the way in the previous 22 years.

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