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SWEET HOME — Numerous community events are billed as being “family friendly,” but the fifth annual Best in the West Triathlon Festival, held at Lewis Creek Park Saturday and Sunday, definitely lived up to that billing.

Moms and dads pushed babies in strollers or held the tiny hands of toddlers as runners and cyclists whizzed by them on the north shore of Foster Reservoir.

There were numerous tents where participants could get everything from food to athletic gear, and there were several games and photo opportunities for children.

Michele Moody, 50, of Junction City began competing in triathlons four years ago to help her quit smoking cigarettes.

She now competes in up to five triathlons per year, several of them with her father-in-law, John Moody, 71, and brother-in-law Lee Moody, 44, all of Junction City.

All three competed and cheered for each other over the weekend.

“I love the camaraderie of triathlons,” she said, sitting next to her husband, Doug, Sunday morning.

Moody said her father-in-law is a serious competitor and has even completed an Iron Man race in Arizona.

“It’s a wonderful place for both the competitors and the spectators,” Doug Moody said of the venue. “It’s just gorgeous.”

Competitors were expecting cooler temperatures Sunday, after a Saturday afternoon that saw the mercury bump the 90-degree mark.

“It was plenty warm,” said volunteer Ken Bronson, who was in charge of firing a Browning shotgun to start each race.

His son Blair, 27, founded the event five years ago as an internship for his public health program at Oregon State University.

The event, which attracted nearly 700 participants, also was the collegiate championship race and brought teams from Oregon State, Montana, Montana State and Washington.

Australian native Erica McKenzie is one of the OSU coaches and an individual champion at last year’s event.

“This keeps growing every year,” McKenzie said. “It’s a work in progress.”

McKenzie said OSU has about 80 to 120 team members, with a “solid core” of about 40.

“We compete in about seven to eight events per season as a team,” McKenzie said.

Although there were hundreds of seasoned veterans competing, the event also attracted many newcomers.

A little after 7 a.m., Mark Cherng, 52, of Vancouver, Washington, was preparing for his first triathlon.

“I am doing this to stay healthy,” he said.

He has previously run a half-marathon and has competed in a 100-mile bicycle race.

“My goal is to finish,” Cherng said.

Former Sweet Home High School and collegiate swimming standout Rachel Ahola Tyler was also trying a triathlon for the first time.

“I decided yesterday (Saturday) it might be fun,” she said.

She talked her friend, Kelly Sautel into taking part as well.

“It’s been 12 years since I’ve done much swimming,” Tyler said. “We’re going to give it a whirl.”

Entering the relay team event for the first time were mid-valley fire chiefs David Barringer of Sweet Home, Gordon Sletmoe of Lebanon and John Bradner of Albany.

Fittingly, their team name was “Sweet Chiefs.”

Barringer was going to swim, Sletmoe was going to ride a bicycle and Bradner was going to run.

“Our goal is to be in survivalist mode, and next year beat our survivalist time,” Barringer said as he prepared for the shotgun start.

Although he was busy getting everyone into the water and races started, Blair Bronson said the weekend’s events had been going well.

There was no wind and Foster Reservoir was flat, with a water temperature of 70 degrees.

“It’s looking good,” Bronson said. “Yesterday’s heat caused some times to be slower, but it was still a good day.”

Bronson said that on Saturday, Brian Schaning of Bend successfully defended his Iron Man title and participants came from as far away as New York, Alaska, Hawaii and Colorado.

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Contact Linn County reporter Alex Paul at 541-812-6114.

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