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photo: Barb Odom
Americans Eager for Hy-Vee Homecoming
After recording top-10 finishes at ITU World Championship Series events in Sydney, Seoul and Madrid this season, Haskins, as well as her fellow Americans, will have the chance to race in front of a number of friends and family at Sunday’s Hy-Vee ITU Triathlon Elite Cup.
“This really is just like where I grew up, … so to me it’s home,” Haskins said at Friday’s pre-race press conference at Raccoon River Park. “I just feel very fortunate to be able to have a race here – not only that’s in the U.S. – but so close to where all my family lives so that they can come and watch and learn what triathlon is all about and experience the kind of racing that I do.”
Haskins’ family making the trek from St. Louis, coupled with her husband’s family heading south from Minnesota, figure to give the world’s No. 4-ranked ITU triathlete quite the home field advantage Sunday.
If Haskins’ past results at Hy-Vee are any indication, her supporters could have a lot to cheer about. She has placed in the top 10 in each Hy-Vee Triathlon start and locked up a spot in the Beijing Olympic Games with her 2008 performance.
While she might have the largest contingent, Haskins won’t be the only American with a cheering section Sunday. “It’s basically become a family thing now,” said fellow Olympian Jarrod Shoemaker, who will follow his sister, Jenna, and wife, Alicia Kaye, on the race course Sunday. “I got my mom to do her first [triathlon] last year; I married another triathlete. It’s fun.”
Shoemaker, who owns a pair of top-10 finishes at Hy-Vee, says his family full of competitive athletes keeps him motivated.
“It’s awesome to have other people around you who are active, athletic,” said Shoemaker, who spent part of this week training with his wife and sister in Polk City, Iowa. “It helps me a lot. It helps me keep my drive for the sport going and it helps me get better.”
Haskins, Shoemaker and the other athletes in action this weekend are assured of enjoying a top-notch race weekend. An enjoyable experience also awaits the spectators.
“It’s great being able to have a race of this caliber on home soil. When the Hy-Vee Triathlon started back in 2007, I think all of us were floored and just impressed with the event that Hy-Vee was able to put on and showcase to the world. It’s not only a great race, but I think it’s a great atmosphere,” said Haskins.
In addition to having the world’s top single-event prize purse at $1 million, Hy-Vee rolls out the red carpet for its elite athletes, making this event a must-attend for the Olympic-distance set. “I couldn’t be more appreciative, and I think I speak on behalf of all the athletes,” said Haskins.
While obviously focused on her race Sunday, Haskins took some time Friday morning to reach out to the future of the sport, mingling with some of the youth athletes that are set to open an exciting weekend of multisport action with Saturday’s races.
“I think it’s great to see Hy-Vee put on such a great kids’ race. I know there’s going to be 900-plus kids racing [Saturday],” said Haskins, a former teacher who enjoys visiting schools and interacting with youth. “I think not only is triathlon a great sport to introduce children to, it also produces a healthy lifestyle.”