By John L. Pitts/NEMS Daily Journal
PLANTERSVILLE – It was the same course, but Saturday morning’s fifth annual King of the Hill Triathlon had a little different feel.
Moved from August to May 1 this year, the event at Tombigbee State Park went off under overcast skies and mild temperatures with just a hint of rain in the air. And for much of their time on the course, the 110 competitors found themselves buffeted by a steady wind.
Winner Billy Tune, 31, of Collierville, Tenn., said he “never ever felt like we had a helping wind out there the whole time – it was either a headwind or a crosswind. It was a tough race.”
Tune finished the course – a half-mile swim, 20-mile bike ride and 3.6-mile run – in 1:26:39.0. Second-place finisher Clay Curtis, 35, of Plantersville, finished in 1:28.00.3. Anthony Ward (1:33:42.5) was third.
Swimmers entered the water one-by-one to start the race, and Tune was near the rear of the line, wearing No. 95. “I arrived late and didn’t get much of a warmup,” said Tune, a personal trainer. “I just jumped in cold and pretty soon started passing people.”
Tune finished the half-mile swim in 10:41.7, opening a slight lead on the clock against Curtis (11:36.0), a two-time King of the Hill winner.
The two were even in the bike race, each taking 51 minutes on the course. “My legs felt horrible when I first got on the bike,” Tune said. “It seems like I had the wind in my face for the first 7 or 8 miles.”
Said Curtis, a Tupelo fireman: “The wind definitely made the bike race harder, but it was probably to the benefit of the stronger riders.”
Curtis (23:06.4) finished fast on the run – along a course near his home that he runs often – but couldn’t make up much time on Tune (23:13.5).
“I was just hanging on there at the end,” Tune said.
Petya Petrova, 28, of Cleveland, was the women’s winner in 1:34:15.5 – fourth overall. She’s a former Delta State swimmer.
A native of Bulgaria, Petrova said Saturday’s race was her third triathlon and her first overall victory. “It’s something I’m still learning about and getting comfortable with,” she said.
Not surprisingly, Petrova had the best time of any competitor in the half-mile swim, getting out of the water in just 9:18.2. “Swimming is my strength, but I feel good about my abilities with the bike and the run,” she said.
Maria Williams (1:52:02.08) was second and Stacey Hyde (1:54:42.5) third.
Both overall winning times were faster than last year, perhaps partly attributable to the fact that conditions on Saturday were much cooler than for the previous August King of the Hill events.
Several top competitors, including the top finishers, praised the move of the event to early in the triathlon season.
“I think we’re going to keep it on the calendar next spring and see how things develop,” said race co-director Mark Bresee. “It looks like we can fill a void in the triathlon calendar this way.”
Both Tune and Petrova said they planned to run the Memphis in May triathlon the weekend of May 23 and used Saturday’s race as a tuneup.
The race began with a prayer from the sister of the late J.P. Frerer, a Tupelo High School student who was the captain for the winning relay team last season. Five days later, on Aug. 13, he was killed while on a training ride.
“Let’s honor J.P. today with a safe, fun event,” one of the race supervisors, Johnny Miles, told the competitors before the swim began.
– Race results in today’s NEMS Daily Journal newspaper.