by Ron Adkins

DSCN1510Lincoln Murdoch recently notched another first place finish at the 2016 Bluff Creek Triathlon. He is a 2012 National Champion Triathlete. In 2013, he qualified to compete in London and placed 6th out of 95 elite competitors, coming in first in his age group.

“I am so blessed,” Lincoln says, smiling, as he discusses his past accomplishments. He has amassed a trophy case full of awards over the course of his 21-year triathlon career.

But this season, the only piece of hardware that matters is the baton he carries in memory of his dear friends, Ty and Terri Schenzel.

“I tuck it into my race belt so I can feel their presence beside me when I run.”

As he crosses the finish line, Lincoln raises the baton aloft, sharing his victory with his absent friends. Its inscription is offered up as a silent challenge to everyone, and for every competition we face on this earth:  They ran so well. They ran so hard. Now, the baton stands. Who will pick it up and run with it?”

DSCN1509To say that his 30-year friendship with Ty and Terri had a profound effect on Lincoln would be an understatement. “They were great, inspirational teachers,” says Lincoln. “They ran their laps in life so well, and they touched so many people.” Ty and Terri lost their lives in a car accident while visiting South Dakota in 2015.

The Schenzels and Lincoln were pastors at the same church for many years in Omaha, Nebraska. “They were the most fun people on the planet,” says Lincoln. “We would get together at least once a week for what we called ‘laugh therapy,’ where all the weight of the world was lifted off our shoulders.”

“And yet,” adds Lincoln, “They were very serious about God, and about His healing power and His ability to lift us up. I often said that Ty and Terri had the ability to mix the holy and the hilarious.”

“Most importantly,” says Lincoln, “they valued people. Something not enough of us do these days. You met them and immediately felt like they were your friends. And they were. They cared about people so much.”

The Schenzels founded The Hope Center For Kids in Omaha in 1998, where, according to its website, over 2700 children and youth are provided a safe after-school and summer program where they take part in academic support, youth development, and employment training. Kids can also enjoy what could be the only hot meal they receive all day.

Ty and Terri’s deaths shocked the Omaha community and all those whose lives they touched. One mourner at their memorial service praised them for their vision for greater possibilities. “They showed, with hope, that real men don’t need gangs,” said Justin Coleman.

A year prior to the accident, Ty and Terri opened a second Hope Center in Fremont, Nebraska. Both Centers are still going strong, affecting lives on the foundation the Schenzels put down.

For information on the Hope Center and its mission, visit

Lincoln beams when he talks about the impact his friends have had on hundreds of young people. He knows no one will ever be able to replace Ty and Terri, nor should anyone ever try. He hopes, however, that through his words, actions, and his own laps on earth, he will inspire more people to pick up the baton and be a positive influence in the lives of others.

Posted by: Heart of America News | July 31, 2016

Bluff Creek 2016: Motivation and Inspiration Makes For A Great Race

by Ron Adkins

DSCN1493It’s 4:17am on Sunday, July 31.

My colleague, Dennis Green, and I are on the road to the 2016 Bluff Creek Triathlon at Don Williams State Park near Ogden, Iowa.

We’ve been heading west on Highway 30 for half an hour and have encountered maybe three other vehicles in the pre-dawn morning. Dennis yawns, looks out at the blankets of fog covering the hollows and valleys, and gives voice to something we’d both been pondering:

What drives people to get up long, long before sunrise to do a triathlon?

Will Gallagher, a high school senior from St. Michael, Minnesota, races because “they’re super fun! The races are always a good environment and the people are great.” Will was being aggressively recruited by the Iowa State University triathlon team as he waited to board the shuttle bus to the swim start. They were confident they could make him a Cyclone next year.

(more Bluff Creek pictures)

Will’s biggest motivator to race triathlons like Bluff Creek, though, is undoubtedly the devotion of his father, Bill Gallagher. He happily escorts his son to every race, finds a good place to sit where he can cheer Will on when he passes, and chats with other families. “I motivate him during the race, I guess, but he is my daily motivation. Period,” says a justifiably proud Bill. “I love to watch him swim, especially,” he adds.

For race director Alex Syhlmann, what gets him up countless mornings to organize, coordinate, set up, take down, and time triathlons is the sheer fun of the whole process. “It’s the best rush I know watching athletes do well and cross the finish line with a smile.”

Alex recently left his day job to devote his full attention to producing and timing races.

“Now, I say ‘I get to,’ rather than, ‘I have to.’ go to work.”


Lincoln Murdoch

Some outstanding triathletes were extremely motived to cross the Bluff Creek finish line. Congratulations to female Sprint winner Melanie Kraft, finishing with an outstanding 1:12:33. Top male Sprint honors went to Lincoln Murdoch, with a 1:08:20. (Learn more about Lincoln and his incredible season in a related article.)

Brian Norbert was the top finisher in the Para Triathlon, coming across the line with a 1:19:41.

Top Sprint Aquabike honors went to Zoe Sirotiak with an amazing 52:05, and Curtis Anderson with a 1:09:40.

In the Olympic category, Madeleine Pesch crossed the line first for the women with a 2:22:27.


Sean and Ethan Austin (center) with Brad Woodford (l.) and Christopher Bell (r.)

Sean Austin notched his second Heart of America series victory of the season, adding the Bluff Creek crown to his Quad Cities win in 2:10:07, but marked an important first as well. This was his first race since the birth of his son Ethan, who accompanied him to the podium.

Complete race results can be found at

As always, congratulations to all the triathletes who competed in the 2016 Bluff Creek Tri. For whatever reasons motivate them, they succeeded brilliantly.

And what, you might ask, motivates us, the humble announcers, to rise early all triathlon season?

Dennis Green has announced triathlons for the past 21 years. He has become as recognizable a fixture at Heart of America races as many of the elite racers.

“I’ve watched great athletes begin and end their careers in that time,” he jokes. “But what keeps me doing this is that I love to tell the stories of all the athletes who compete. Not just the elite athletes but the regular folks who are doing this for maybe the first time, or as a personal challenge, or in honor of someone. That’s the best part of it all.”


All the wonderful people make it worth every effort.

Posted by: Heart of America News | June 19, 2016

Closed to Cars, Open for Business – Quad Cities 2016

By Dennis Green

2016-06-18 07.23.29Nearly 700 athletes experienced a nearly perfect day for the 17th annual Quad Cities Triathlon on June 18.

More race pictures.

The humidity was low and there was little wind, but recent warm temperatures caused the temperature in Davenport’s West Lake to reach 81 degrees, making the race wet suit optional, according to USAT rules, and pulling swimmers who chose to wear wet suits out of contention for awards.

The field ended up split about in half between those who chose to wear wet suits and those who didn’t. Race director Eric Sarno held the wet-suited swimmers back until everyone else had hit the water, to make it easier to tally results.

2016-06-18 07.05.55

Fred Hemsath & Ann Vestle

The Quad Cities race is very popular with first-timers, as the course is fast and flat. But experienced racers also come back year after year. Fred Hemsath and Ann Vestle are part of a very small group who have done all seventeen races.

The course is closed to traffic while the race is going on, making the race even more pleasant for both newbies and experienced racers.

Sean Austin of Ames, competing in Davenport for the first time, won the men’s race in 1:05:14. “It was just a fantastic race,” he said. “I love the closed course, and the competition was close. Kept me on my toes.” Austin and North Liberty’s Josh Madsen were neck and neck up until the bike transition, with Sean pulling ahead on the run.

The women’s race was just as competitive, as Laura Moeller  of Ankeny edged local favorite Christina Schmidt by just seven seconds, winning in 1:18:01.

Full results.

Posted by: Heart of America News | June 15, 2016

Pigman Long Course Cancelled

By Dennis Green

Pigman LongRace director John  Snitko has announced the 2016 Pigman Long has been cancelled.

In an email to participants, Snitko said advance registrations had decreased substantially from past years, and the numbers just didn’t work.

“Over the past few years we have tried a number of ways to keep our registration numbers consistent to what is needed,” Snitko said. “Unfortunately, our efforts have fallen short of what is needed.

Read the full text of John’s email.

Snitko says full refunds to all those who pre-registered are being arranged. The Pigman Sprint, held each June, will continue.

Posted by: Heart of America News | June 12, 2016

Pigman Sprint 2016 – 25 Years of Excellence

by Ron Adkins

Heart of America Triathlon News

2016-06-05 07.41.44It doesn’t matter which Pigman race you’re talking about – the Sprint on June 5, or the Long on August 21 – just saying the name “Pigman” jumpstarts a triathlete’s pulse.

More Pigman photos

Over the past 25 years, Race Director John Snitko has crafted the Pigman races into internationally respected competitions. Case in point, Hiroto Uegaki traveled from Japan just to run this year’s Pigman Sprint. Michael Hughes represented his native Ireland for the fourth time.

They come from Arlington, Virginia, and Saint Joseph, Michigan, and Leeward, Kansas. And they return year after year. Peter Ylvasaker has competed in all 25 Pigman Sprints. “I still can’t believe it,” he said about his accomplishment. Peter was in good company. A significant number of Pigman competitors have crossed the finish line multiple times.

The Pigman’s reputation allows its competitors a certain amount of clout they can use to forward causes dear to their hearts. Jeff Paul raced this year to raise money for his organization iHope. He uses any prize money and donations to fund scholarships and provide iPads to low income students who demonstrate outstanding character.

Course conditions made it a little tough to break any records this year at Pleasant Creek Park near Palo, Iowa. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has begun draining the lake for eventual dredging. This made the run-out from the swim about 50 feet longer than normal. The shallower lake also meant that swimmers kicked up mud as they entered. After the first dozen or so swimmers, the water was, as John Snitko described it, “a bit mucky.” After the first hundred took the plunge, conditions had reached Mississippi Delta proportions. And a set of railroad tracks in need of repair (repairs to start, ironically, the day after the race) slowed bikers down momentarily and tossed quite a few water bottles from bicycles.

Nothing, though, slowed down the triathletes’ enthusiasm or drive. David Thompson of Long Lake, Minnesota, took home his fifteenth Pigman crown with a respectable 1:02:35. He also scored the bonus $750 prize for being the first racer across the finish line. Suzie Fox of Chaska, Minnesota, was the first female finisher, posting a 1:12:51. Complete race results can be found at

2016-06-05 11.13.37Competitors and friends alike gathered after the race to pay tribute to a true hero. Mike Van Horne is currently battling Parkinson’s disease. Rather than let his condition keep him sidelined, he formed a team to compete this year, anchoring the run portion of the race. Mike is a long-time member of the Midwest Extreme Tri Club, and fellow club members were out in force to voice their support and admiration. Mike was presented an award by the team for his inspiration. He and his team dedicated this race to raising funds and awareness of Parkinson’s.

Mike, and everyone gathered to race the 2016 Pigman Sprint, couldn’t have asked for a better day. Clear, sunny skies and a slight breeze kept everyone’s spirits up. By the time the first runners crossed the finish line, the atmosphere had reached party proportions.

I don’t know what it is about this race,” said Margaret Baumhoven of Cedar Rapids, triathlon cheerleader and expert cowbell ringer. “I have a daughter who does lots of these in the summer. They’re all fun to come to but this one is just wonderful. A week before, all I hear from her is ‘Pigman, Pigman, Pigman!’”

Posted by: Heart of America News | May 23, 2016

Hickory Grove 2016 – A Perfect Season Start

By Ron Adkins

Heart of America Triathlon News

There’s something great about the first triathlon of the season.

Rookie or veteran, expectation is as palpable as the scent of Bug Soother wafting from transition. Racing buddies re-start friendly rivalries. Everyone hits the water pale-skinned and full of optimism after the winter hibernation.

The 2016 running of the Hickory Grove races was packed with smiles, hugs, and handshakes as 200 triathletes laced up for the opening of the Heart of America Triathlon Series. The weather was perfect. Race conditions at Hickory Grove Park near Colo, Iowa were optimal and held the promise of a fast course.

That promise was kept, as racers posted remarkable times, many of them personal bests.

Again this year, Race Director Alex Syhlman offered three race choices – sprint triathlon, duathlon (run/bike/run), and aquabike (swim/bike), to best tailor racer to race.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Reece Linder smoked the triathlon course, coming in first across the line with a 1:06:49. Laura Moeller topped the women’s race posting an impressive 1:19:44.

In the duathlon, Tim Petrie finished first with a 1:05:38. Top female honors went to Amelia Borgomainerio with a 1:26:04.

Top male in the aquabike was Steven Traynor, posting a 1:07:05. Valerie Schroeder was the first female aquabiker, in at 1:08:31.

Complete race results can be found at

This continues to be a popular race for triathletes of all skill levels. Syhlman was pleased that nearly a quarter of the field were first-timers to the race. Also encouraging was the number of triathletes for whom this was their third, fourth, or even fifth time racing at Hickory Grove.

Hickory Grove remains a popular race to begin a triathlon career. With such excellent course conditions at Hickory Grove Park, and the race choices offered by Syhlman, Hickory Grove is ideal for those new to competition.

And a steady influx of enthusiastic new triathletes, Syhlman agrees, is the best indicator that a race – and the triathlon sport in general – will remain healthy in the future.

Posted by: Heart of America News | March 22, 2016

No Dam Race This Year

Officials tell us that Iowa’s Best Dam Triathlon will not be held in 2016. Organizers hope the race will return in 2017.

Posted by: Heart of America News | January 17, 2016

2016 Series!

By Dennis Green

Heart of America Triathlon News

It’s well below zero as of this writing, so let’s warm up by thinking ahead to race season!

I know some of you are planning your event calendar, so even though a couple of dates are awaiting final approval, here is how the 2016 Heart of America Schedule looks:

Hickory Grove Triathlon– May 22

  • Sprint Triathlon, Duathlon, Aquabike

Pigman Sprint Triathlon – June 5

  • Sprint Triathlon

Quad City Triathlon – June 18

  • Sprint Triathlon

Bluff Creek Triathlon – July 31 (tentative)

  • Sprint & Olympic Distances

Camp Courageous Triathlon – August 7

  • Sprint Triathlon

Pigman Long Course Triathlon – August 21

  • Long Course Triathlon

Cy-Man Triathlon – Sept. 18

  • Sprint & Olympic Distances


Posted by: Heart of America News | October 2, 2015

Sharp Dressed Man

by Ron Adkins

Heart of America Triathlon News

At first glance, you’re not sure if 23-year-old Byron Smith heard the announcer correctly when he decla2015Cyman10red the water “wetsuit legal.” You stand there, looking at Byron as he stands at the lake’s edge.

In a business suit.

Granted, he looks quite dashing, but you do question his sanity. Until you get to know him. Then you realize that he is quite sane and his heart is definitely in the right place.

“It’s all about having fun out here,” he says with a big grin. “I try to high-five everyone out on the course, to make them smile and remind them that this is a very fun sport.”

The recent Cy-Man was the second race Byron competed in formal attire. Although, he specifies, “This is the first time I’ve worn a tie. I try to be a little more formal with each race.” His chosen tie was a tasteful thin number that went well with the fedora he wore on the run.

Cy-Man marked the 20th tri Byron has raced in the past three years. Cy-Man was also his very first triathlon back in 2012. He has no plans to stop competing, if you calls what he does ‘competing.’ He finished third in his age division with an impressive 1:33:48 – a time that would have been slightly more impressive had he not turned around to retrieve the fedora that flew off about five yards from the finish line.

“I would have felt naked crossing the line without it,” he said with a straight face. (This reporter, however, was laughing out loud.)

Byron graduated from Iowa State University last year with a degree in aerospace engineering. “I want to design apps for mobile devices, but I would jump at the chance to be an astronaut. I’m always changing goals.”

Byron finds the swim leg of the race the most enjoyable. This is ironic, considering that by the time he leaves the water and mounts his bike, that business suit is providing about 150 pounds of extra drag. “It gets lighter as it dries out on the bike and run, so no worries,” he says.

He grew up as a runner, and picked up swimming in high school. After graduating ISU, he moved to Minneapolis and continues to train with the University of Minnesota Triathlon Club. “My only other sport is Frisbee,” he says.

Byron says he plans to continue racing triathlons for a long time. “They’re a great way to stay in shape and to meet lots of fun people,” he says. “I love to make people smile.”

If competing in a suit is the way he’s found to put a grin on a bunch of game faces, then more power to him.

Posted by: Heart of America News | September 21, 2015

CyMan Caps Off One Season, Kicks Off Another

by Ron Adkins

Heart of America Triathlon News

 2015Cyman20CyMan 2015 is a busy way to cap off the local triathlon season. It’s actually four races in one. 130 triathletes gathered at Lake Petocka near Bondurant, Iowa, to compete in either the Sprint, Olympic, Heart of America championship, or Collegiate divisions.

While CyMan represents the championship race of the 2015 Heart of America season, it is also the opening event for 2016. Points earned at the CyMan count toward next year’s standings. 

Heart of America points winners raced in a special champion wave, and finish times were then age-equalized. The top five age-equalized times win free entries next year.

2015Cyman22Kim Sprenger of Iowa City won the Championship wave for the women. Points champ Brita Loynichan was second, with Ann Vestle, Tami Fiala, and Jill Snitko rounding out the top five.

Guy Olson of Cedar Rapids topped the leaderboard for the men, with points champ Dave Steines just behind. Adam Kassem, Fred Hemsath, and Craig Goldsmith also finished in the money.

For complete Heart of America Series final results, visit

The CyMan is the Iowa State University Triathlon Club’s main event, and a qualifier for Collegiate Nationals. The top collegiate male was Alex Hershey with a 2:10:14. First place female was Hannah Eldridge at 2:34:50.

Athletes couldn’t have asked for a better day. The weather was downright autumnal, with crisp morning air, near cloudless skies, and a brisk breeze. Water temperature for the swim leg was a balmy 77 degrees.

Ryan Long of Omaha, was the first male across the line in the Sprint, clocking a 1:09:51. Top female honors went to Zoe Sirotiak of Des Moines with a 1:21:15.

The top male in the Olympic distance was Eric Prilip of Dubuque, coming in at 2:19:33. The top female was Laura Moeller of Ankeny, with a 2:34:39.

Full results at

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