Maine State Triathlon is a family event


BETHEL — Swim a half-mile. Bike nearly 15 miles. Then, run 3.6 miles.

And all before 10 a.m.

Sunday’s 24th annual Maine State Triathlon attracted 150 amateur athletes to the sprint-style course and equally as many spectators to watch them compete.

Two of the athletes were Barry and Christine Church of Davison, Mich., a couple who has been traveling state-to-state to compete in triathlons. They hope to complete in one in each state, with children Mandy and Aaron along for the experience.

Bethel marked the 11th event in the national quest for these 51-year-olds; Barry finished 73rd at 1:40:44 and Christine finished nearly 20 minutes later, placing 125th overall.

As the smiling parent-athletes crossed the finish line, their children were busy working as event volunteers.

For the Austin family, Sunday wasn’t about the competition as much as it was about honoring their mother and grandmother, Donna Small, or “Gizzy” as they liked to call her.

Small, who lived in Bethel from 2004 to 2009, died in Florida in March after fighting a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Her son, Tony Austin of Orlando, Fla., and his children, Katie, John and Tommy Austin, teamed up to raise money to sponsor them in Sunday’s event.

The middle sibling, Tommy, 28, of Boston, Mass., finished first among the three at 1:47:36.

John, 30, of Dublin, Calif., finished 131rd among the 150 competitors, and was followed across the finish line less than two minutes later by sister Katie, 26, of Tampa, Fla.

After the younger Austins finished the race, they regrouped and joined their 63-year-old father for his final stretch so they could run across the finish line as a family.

Small’s funeral was held in the Bethel area on Saturday.

The money her grandchildren raised will be donated to the National Parkinson’s Disease Foundation.

At the start of the Maine State Triathlon, swimmers entered Songo Pond at the Bethel Inn Lakehouse for the 750-meter swim. After that, they biked 24 kilometers along Routes 5 and 35, returning to the Lakehouse for the 5.8 kilometer run around Songo Pond.

Mike Caiazzo, 39, of Cumberland, finished first in the men’s category for the second year in a row, completing the course in 1:09:39.

The Bethel race was one of 10 events Caiazzo is scheduled to compete in this year. In June, he placed first overall in the Rye Duathlon in New Hampshire and in the Sebago Lake Triathlon.

Caiazzo was followed by Eric Lundgren, 34, of Gorham, in second, who also placed second in Bethel in 2014, and Robert Straznitskas, 46, of Springvale, in third.

In the women’s category, Abigail Wentworth, 26, of Bethel and Bedminster Township, N.J., finished first in 1:26:22, followed by Elissa Bradley, 32, of Portland, in second and Katherine Chabot-Boucher, 42, of Saco in third.

Proceeds of the event benefit the Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce.