VALPARAISO | Jordan Bailey had the finish line in his sights with less than 20 seconds to go in order to break his three-year-old course record at the Valparaiso Triathlon.
The Ogden Dunes native turned the last 60 yards into a sprint and shaved two seconds off his 2010 record time by crossing the finish line at 56:58. Bailey became the first four-time men’s winner of the 11th annual event, holding off 2012 victor Matthew McDonough (58:46) by just under two minutes.
History was made on Saturday morning as Tobey Yeats became the first woman other than Chris Wickard to win in the last seven years. Wickard didn’t participate in this year’s event.
Bailey was making his return to Rogers-Lakewood Park for the first time since he won back-to-back titles in 2010-11.
“I love Valpo. It was the first race I did and it’s a very fast course,” Bailey said. “I couldn’t ask for a better weather day. In 2010 I did 57 flat and my goal was to break that even number.”
Bailey was so far ahead of the rest of the pack in the first group, that everyone else was running for second place, McDonough improved on his winning time from last year, but still wasn’t close to catch the Portage graduate.
“He beat me fair and square,” McDonough said. “He was fast, no question. I’m still happy with how everything went this year. The conditions were similar and the food tent dominated as usual. Last year it was cookies, this year I went with a few too many doughnuts.”
Bailey, who serves as the Little 500 tournament director, next plans to travel to Quebec for the Mont Tremblant Iron Man race next month.
That Yeats become the first woman other than Wickard to win the Female Division since 2006 was noteworthy itself, but the fact that Yeats (1:11.24) accomplished the feat with just one hand added to the moment.
The Western Springs (Ill.) native was born without her right hand, instead using a modified paddle during the ¼-mile swim and a prosthetic during the 12.4-mile bike ride.
“The water is not challenging at all, but the prosthesis doesn’t fit very well and it’s very difficult to shift gears,” Yeats said. “The biggest challenge was definitely the hills during the biking.”
Yeats edged out Valparaiso native Laura Nietert (1:12:09) by just less than a minute. Nietert was the first woman across the finish line and waited in anticipation to see if she was victorious as the remaining waves of participants made their way through the course. Yeats started the race five minutes after Nietert began.
“I coach soccer and I kept on thinking of all my girls and what I say to get them going,” Nietert said. “I loved being on the bike, seeing all the guys in front of me, and then wanting to pass all of them.”