Race Coverage

Sloshing in Sherburne County...


GRANITEMAN BIG LAKE COVERAGE - The weather for the 2020  Big Lake Triathlon was ideal for racing; the conditions greeting the event's 2021 participants were not. Rain had made for conservative pacing.

The forecast for this year's Big Lake races (Olympic and Sprint) called for rain again, lots of it, and that's exactly what confronted the 300-plus entrants who arrived at Lakeside Park last Saturday. In fact, it, pardon the awkward metaphor, rained like a banshee and didn't let up, ironically, until almost everyone had sloshed across the finish line.

Naturally, the situation caused some attrition, but many of 231 athletes who ultimately perservered praised the event and were justifiably pleased with themselves for meeting the heightened challenge.

After a mandatory 30-minute lightning delay, the Olympic race got underway. Immediately, the men who would ultimately claim the Top Four spots broke into two groups. The first pair consisted of past champions PRESTON YOUNGDAHL, who would once again demonstrate that he is the frontrunner for 2022 Minnesota Male Triathlete of the Year, and 2020 Big Lake winner JOSH MORK, who is enthusiastically on what can be described as "the comeback trail." 

The second pair consisted were recent Turtleman Olympic winner JASON LIEBSCH, and STEVEN VOSS, who like Jason, is enjoying a very successful 2022 tri season. In their last meeting at Graniteman Clearwater, Voss outswam and outran Liebsch, but was unable to overcome the deficit created on the bike. The result at Clearwater was a 4th place finish for Jason and a 2:58 margin over 6th-placing Voss....

Saturday's confrontration played out in similar fashion, but was much tighter. In fact it was as tight as it could possibly be. Only one second separated these guys. Exciting stuff.

Unlike Liebsch and Voss, Youngdahl and Mork launched in separate waves. The two-minute differential resulted in the men leaving T1 at the same time. In other words, Mork was enjoying a two-minute lead at that point. 

Mork knew that would not hold up. Youngdahl is a tremendous cyclist, arguably the fastest in our region, and even slowed somewhat by slick roads and poor vision, retaining even a few seconds of his swim margin wasn't going to happen. 


Pseanandmom.pngreston's bike split was more than three minutes faster than Josh's. Game over. On the bright side, there was no way that Mork was going to finish any lower than 2nd, which was very encouraging for a guy who was on the "comeback trial." So, two starts and two seconds for Mork.

For Youngdahl, three wins in four starts this year.

In the similarly soggy 2021 Big Lake Sprint race, WHITNEY MOORE placed 2nd, her best finish ever and a clear sign that she was becoming competitive. At lakeside on Saturday, Whitney was ready to rock-and-roll. Racing in her first Olympic-distance event, she was confident that her bike and run could keep her in the podium mix.

It did that. In fact, passing women on the bike was energizing; passing the remainder of the women's field on the run was even moreso. She not only recorded her first career tri win, she did so by a convincing margin. 

Effervescent LIBBY WARREN turned in her first career podium performance, claiming 2nd. Two minutes later, elite Grand Master AMY WOOLSEY, 56, would round out the Top 3, thus recording her fifth AG win in five starts this season. Two of those efforts produced AG records and her BL result marked her third Top 5 finish of the season.

The Sprint race featured a predictable runaway women's win for BETTE ROWLEY, who appears to thrive in sub-optimal weather, and a men's podium, er, make that a "boys podium" consisting of talented youngsters. Not only that, four teen girls, actually three teenagers and an 11-year-old, took places two through five after Rowley, 37.

Hammering 5:20 miles on the 5K run, Big Lake's OWEN LAYTON, 16, overtook eventual runner-up SEAN PICKLE (photo L with his mom, who is a HOOT!), also a fine runner and rookie triathlete, for the win. Twelve-year-old NOLAN SNYDER, the early leader, was impressive throughout and finished in 3rd place.

Fifteen-year-old TATE DIHEL of Apple Valley, like Layton and Pickle, a tri-newcomer and strong runner (and even stronger swimmer!), claimed 2nd in the  women's race just eleven seconds in front of 19-year-old tri-veteran MORGAN BELL, who is enjoying her most successful season yet.

The same success curve has also been in place for Morgan's kid sister MACY, 17, who claimed 4th. The fifth spot was earned by another, albeit unrelated (We think?) Bell: KIERA, 11. 

All-in-all it was a great morning, though somewhat bittersweet for the race staff who paid tribute to Graniteman founder BILL CORCORAN and his excellent Course Manager LARRY STRACKE, who together have produced almost 100 races over the last nineteen years. Bill and Larry and stepping down. Both men plan to return to racing in 2023 instead of organinzing and producing. 

Graniteman devotees need not worry about the future of the G-Man franchise, though, as the new directors HEATHER ROTHFORK and HEATHER CORCORAN, Bill's wife, have proven to be excellent in their co-directors roles this season. Additionally, their production crew, which includes  Heather  R's "Get 'er Done" Jack of all trades husband JESSE, is committed to the Series' continued excellence.  RESULTS

Top Photo (L-R) - Olympic women's podium: Amy Woolsey, Whitney Moore and Libby Warren.