Waupaca event gives back to community
By Greg Seubert
The overall participation numbers may be down, but the Waupaca Area Triathlon is still having an impact on the community.
This year’s triathlon will be held Saturday, Aug. 19, and, as it has been since it started 22 years ago, will be based at South Park in Waupaca.
A kids’ triathlon is also scheduled for Friday, Aug. 18.
As in the past, the triathlon begins and ends at South Park and consists of a swim or paddle in Shadow Lake, a bicycle ride on rural roads south of Waupaca and a run on city streets.
Changes have been made to the event over the years and 2023 is no exception, according to course director Dean Sondrol.
“We did add a new category,” he said. ”We have a swim and bike only category for somebody that doesn’t want to run. That’s our biggest change. One of the people on our board said he knows a lot of people that don’t run, but they like to swim and bike. He wondered if we could add that. We’re always open to ideas, so we said, ‘Sure.’”
Participants can choose from a long and short course and can participate as an individual or as a member of a relay team.
Sondrol expects this year’s triathlon to attract about 400 participants, which is down from other years.
“We’ve kind of seen a gradual decline,” he said. “At one point, we were bringing 1,000 people here. When we started out, we were happy if we had 300. We had a big drop about five or six years ago. People are doing other things. There are other adventure races out there. We’re still getting good numbers and still getting good community support. That’s always nice.”
The triathlon is scheduled to get underway at 7 a.m. Aug. 19. Participants can pick information packets at the park from noon to 8 p.m. Aug. 18 or 5:30 a.m. to 7 a.m. Aug. 19.
The kids’ triathlon, for ages 4-10, will start at 6 p.m. Aug. 18.
Community support for both triathlons – which includes volunteers that hand out water and help guide competitors on the course – has never gone away in the event’s 22-year history, Sondrol said.
“This group might not help out, but then we pick up another group that helps,” he said. “We get the volunteers and that’s what’s so rewarding about it. We give money back to the organization for the hours they put in. I know there are a lot of groups that we help out that way.
“We give two $1,000 scholarships every year and we give I’m guessing $8,000 to $9,000 a year to organizations,” he added. “People ask me, ‘What do you do with the money?’ All the money goes back into the community and that’s what’s great about it. It might be the Boy Scouts. It might be a church group. It might be a group from the high school. It’s a win-win situation for everybody.”