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Vernal Dinosaur Triathlon Vernal, Utah
Rocky Mountain Regional Championships

Vernal Results

Vernal, Utah, site of the 1999 USAT Rocky Mountain Regional Championships sports a scenic venue, friendly hosts, and a laid-back attitude reminiscent of triathlons from years gone by. 

Vernal, Utah is the last major water and gas stop on the road from Salt Lake City to  Dinosaur National Monument. For 17 years this eastern Utah town has hosted a race featuring small town hospitality amidst a mile-high desert landscape. This year, on August 14, the Vernal race also  served as USA Triathlon's Rocky Mountain Regional Championships. 
To qualify as  a USAT regional championship, race directors simply apply to the organization and pay a fee about equal to the cost of a good pair of running shoes and a dependable tire. The face of any particular race may change little, if at all, by its designation as a USAT championship event. Such is the case with the Vernal Dinosaur Triathlon. 

As with most arid tris, the Vernal Dinosaur swim is made possible through water conservation efforts. Steinaker State Park, 12 minutes north of town, serves as race central. The park's main attractions are the sandy shores and clear waters of  Steinaker Reservoir. 


Racers enter Steinaker Reservoir. The total field of roughly 120 swimmers entered the water together and, although a relatively small field, a few women questioned whether the need to duke it out with the guys was appropriate for a USTA regional championship race.

Most racers come to Vernal from neighboring Colorado and the Salt Lake Valley area. A few trickle in from Idaho and Wyoming. (Pro Barb Lindquist is said to have gotten her start at Vernal when she came down from Jackson Hole, Wyoming a few years back  and crushed the local favorites.) Vernal, however, is not a hotbed of tri geeks. Excluding a showing in the team events, only two local racers competed in the race. Still, the event benefits from good local support, including that of area law enforcement. 

Fifteen-year-old Colby DeCamp rides through the arid Vernal countryside and into the shadow of his father's squad car. 
Perhaps not coincidentally, one of Vernal's few triathletes is Don DeCamp, a Sergeant with the Vernal police force. Although a regular participant in the race, DeCamp was on patrol this Saturday because his race bike was unavailable. DeCamp's son Colby commandeered his father's ride to race in his first Dinosaur triathlon.



Setting an example for Vernal's jean-clad crowd, Colby DeCamp finishes as the second youngest racer of the day.

Vernal's bike course is a balance of hills and flats that takes racers out of the reservoir's depression, through the edge of town and out past fields turned green with irrigation water.

A long and gradual climb serves both bikers and runners as a route out of the park to picturesque views overlooking the reservoir's hilly surroundings.  The venue's mile-high location helps keep the climate from soaring out of control.

Racers grind their way through the first mile of the run.

Shelly Howe, 31, won the overall women's title in 2:19:49 anchored by a 21:53 swim. With the exception of the first (and last) mile of the run course, racers had to contend with washed out jeep roads and loose gravel that slowed times, tested ankles, and made some wonder if they had mistakenly been warped into an Xterra event.





Shelly Howe strides through the last half mile of gravel off-road run.


As morning temperatures began their rise, racers began the last leg of their run, past the last water station, and on to the final hill before a descent to the finish. 






Amy Mohelnitzky, 25-29, charges into the last mile of her run.

Except for the addition of a few USAT rules, the Vernal Dinosaur Triathlon is reminiscent of  the informal races common to triathlon a decade ago. With potential to be one of the best races in the mountain West, Vernal seems content to remain small and laid back.

Young spectators watch the race shaded by sagebrush and sand.

The reward for overall winners is a coveted piece of dinosaur dung. Hardened over the ages and bearing traces of last night's dinner from another era, the dino doo doo far outclasses your ordinary chunk of Plexiglas. 




Overall winner Andy Johnson, Denver, displays his trophy. Still acclimating to altitude after a move from Oregon to the Rockies, Johnson posted a 36 minute run to finish in 2:01:15, 0:42 ahead of Greg Tayler, Heber City, UT.

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