40th Hagg Lake Triathlon doesn't disappoint
Forest Grove resident and former Forest Grove High School swimmer Ryan Perez competed in his first triathlon at Hagg Lake this past weekend, and in the wake of his initial attempt, he may have summed up the event perfectly.
"It hurt," Perez said, "but it was a lot of fun."
For 40 years, Henry Hagg Lake has hosted as many as 700 participants annually in one of the region's most popular endurance events.
The latest edition met or exceeded contestants' expectations under ideal conditions. The Hagg Lake Triathlon and Trail Festival was held July 16 and July 17 at Scoggins Valley Park, southwest of Forest Grove.
The festive atmosphere included music, barbecue, beer, events ranging from Olympic and sprint triathlons to various duathlons and off-road events, and of course, smiles — lots of them.
People travel from all over the country to tackle the challenging terrain at and around Hagg Lake, and despite the physical and mental strain of the race itself, most left not only with a sense of accomplishment, but also the camaraderie of what's become a community of likeminded thrill-seekers.
"It's just something you fall in love with," Janelle Pleasant of Duluth, Georgia, said, despite missing out on competing due to injury. "It's just fun to be here and be around people with so much positivity."
The modern sport of triathlon began with an event held in Mission Bay in San Diego on Sept. 25, 1974, with 46 participating athletes.
Forty-eight years later, the Hagg Lake event is more than 10 times that size, with lots of events: Olympic- and sprint-length triathlons, duathlons, AquaBike competitions, paddleboard triathlons, and off-road events held Sunday, July 17.
Portland's Beau Lonnquist — a former swimming and track athlete at Jesuit High School and sophomore at the University of Washington — won the sprint triathlon, edging Silverdale, Washington's Caleb Giesbrecht by a mere second. This year's event was Lonnquist's first as an individual — he's competed as part of relay teams in the past — after picking up the sport during the COVID-19 shutdown. He said he enjoyed the challenge of the Hagg Lake course.
For Lonnquist, triathlon has provided him a much-needed competitive outlet during the difficulties of the pandemic, and he's taken to the welcoming atmosphere of the triathlon circuit.
"Honestly, it's been really great," Lonnquist said. "It's a lot of fun and it keeps me in shape, and it's a good social thing. The community is so great."
Vancouver, Washington's Jeremiah Romano won Sunday's off-road triathlon and was second to fellow Washingtonian Maxim Serafimovici in Saturday's Olympic triathlon. The 39-year-old said he's been competing in the endurance events for roughly 15 years. He does about six events annually, and he hasn't missed the Hagg Lake event since 2007.
Romano said that what he enjoys most about the sport is the ability to constantly improve through attacking the individual disciplines separately.
"First, I had a group of runners who taught me how to properly run," Romano said. "Now, I have group of cyclists that have pushed me to become really strong. Every year I add something new, put a little bit of work in, and hopefully keep improving."
As for Lonnquist, after competing in the shorter sprint race (750-meter swim, 20-kilometer bike, 5-kilometer run), has his eyes set on stepping up to the more daunting Olympic-length event (1.5k swim, 40k bike, 10k run).
"I definitely have (been thinking of doing the Olympic distance)," Lonnquist said. "I'm using this season to build up to it, and I'm planning to do an Olympic race at the Columbia River Triathlon next month."
Ida B. Wells senior-to-be Bennett Marter won the Oregon high school division, completing the sprint-length triathlon with a time that would've placed him in the top five of the open division. The 17-year-old runs cross country for the Guardians but said his heart is in triathlon, for which he spends the bulk of his time training.
"I try to do three to four races per year in the summer and then train through the winter," Marter said. "Cross country is really just a way for me to train, and we have a really fast varsity team at our school, so I'm less competitive in that. I'd have to be there all the days of the week, but I need to be swimming and biking, too."
The competition is alluring for many triathletes at Hagg Lake, but with it comes the overall experience — which Pleasant said is what keeps her coming back.
"It's just so fulfilling," she said. "Everything just makes you feel so good."
Hagg Lake Triathlon Individual Winners:
Jeremiah Romano 1:38:26.7
Katherine Hungerford 2:16:51.5
Maxim Serafimovici 1:57:46.7
Seeley Gutierrez 2:10:04.3
Beau Lonnquist 1:05:11.3
Monica Emerick 1:14.16.5
Off Road Duathlon
David Cowan 1:42:47.3
Lauren Baeten 2:09:40.0
David Rasca 1:11:14.9
Julianne Pike 1:37:20.3
Jared Austin 50:34.5
Haley Gunderson 49:55.3
Shaun Cain 2:02:32.1
Ed Phillips 2:09:59.1
Mariah Esko 2:32:22.6
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