HARVARD -- Athletes from as far west as Alaska and 13 additional states convened in the small town of Harvard Sunday for the Lions Club's second annual Bare Hill Sprint Triathlon.
John Kinnee, son of Bare Hill Triathlon co-race director Bob Kinnee, won the inaugural event last summer. But this year he conceded his gold medal to Steve O'Brien, of Clinton, who finished the 11-mile course with a time of 1:04:05.
O'Brien finished ninth in the swim, but picked up ground in the cycling stage and the 5K to catch John Kinnee, who finished second overall in 1:05:35.
"It was an awesome race," O'Brien said. "I ride and I run a lot around here.
"I heard it is a pretty challenging course," he said. "There were volunteers everywhere giving directions and water throughout the course -- It was great and well run. It was a lot of fun. I rode this course a couple days ago, so I knew the bike course pretty well. I had a good idea of what to expect, but you still have to come out on race day and give it your all. It turned out great."
Harvard resident Jennifer Schoenberg claimed the top female time of 1:10:57. Schoenberg trained on the course on the days leading up to race day, and it proved to be beneficial. Schoenberg finished 12th out of 234 racers.
"It is a very awesome feeling to win my home race," Schoenberg said. "It was a nice clean swim -- I have been in many races where people were thrashing around in the water, but it was a nice cordial swim today. The hardest part of the race had to be the uphill part of the course. People were telling me that I was at the front of the pack, but you never know it because I was part of the last wave. My biggest fear is getting caught."
Harvard's own Suzanne Dutkewych won the 45-49 female division with a time of 1:30:37 -- two minutes better than her time last season. Other local first-place category finishers included Price Day, (0-19-year-old male division) and Nicholas Rindenello (Male 25-29 division).
Legally blind triathlete Erich Manser, of Littleton, took home the Clydesdale division first-place medal with his time of 1:16:42. It was Manser's first time racing in the Bare Hill Triathlon, but he is no stranger to the triathlon circuit.
Manser was guided throughout the course by his good friend, John, of Concord. Sunday's race is the start of Manser's triathlon season -- he is recovering from a torn meniscus he suffered while training for an Ironman race in Arizona.
"This race is a very para-friendly race," Manser said. "I was especially excited to find a guide who pushes my pace in each event. I am nearing 30 triathlons in my career and I have done several Olympic ones. I have a few more races in this season."
Half of the proceeds from Sunday's race will be invested back into the community to Lions Club affiliated charities and the rest will be distributed to needy families in Harvard.
Overall, the second annual Bare Hill Triathlon was a success, in the eyes of Bob Kinnee.
"People from all over are starting to recognize we have a great venue to host an event such as this," Bob Kinnee said. "We reversed the run course this year because the previous direction was too much of an initial incline coming off of the bike. "It was a great day," he added. "There were no incidents to report today. We had nearly 75 volunteers to insure the safety of all of those involved."
For a complete list of finishing times and category winners from Sunday's triathlon, visit Firm-racing.com and click on the link for the Bare Hill Triathlon under Races.
Follow Ed Niser on Twitter/Tout: @EdNiser.