Great Greenbrier River Race draws fun-loving crowd

 a crowd ON the bridge at Marlinton cheers for the racers as they rush their kayaks and canoes for the second leg of the Great Greenbrier River Race triathlon Saturday. After a three mile run, racers take a four-mile ride down the river before returning to Marlinton in a 10-mile bike ride from Buckeye.  S. Stewart photo
a crowd ON the bridge at Marlinton cheers for the racers as they rush their kayaks and canoes for the second leg of the Great Greenbrier River Race triathlon Saturday. After a three mile run, racers take a four-mile ride down the river before returning to Marlinton in a 10-mile bike ride from Buckeye. S. Stewart photo

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

“Because it’s fun!”

When participants in the Great Greenbrier River Race are asked the simple question of “why do you come back each year to participate,” the answer is simple – “it’s fun.”

Young and old, fit and extremely fit, it doesn’t matter. The River Race is an opportunity to have fun with friends, enjoy the beauty of Pocahontas County and support the Greenbrier River Trail Association.

Despite the chill in the air and the looming gray clouds, hundreds of participants got pumped up and put their best efforts into the one-of-a-kind triathlon.

In her third year entering the race, Slaty Fork resident Kristen Lecroy said the race is a perfect mix of challenge and ease.

“These are fun,” she said. “I did one race similar to this when I was out in California, but this is so much fun, and the distances, they’re not, ‘I’ve got to train for a year,’ kinds of distances. It’s okay. As long as I’m still working out, I can kind of wing it.

“The river gets crazy,” she added. “The bike portion – the turn gets gnarly and some people take it really serious. You’re on the river trail and you’ve got lanes going both ways. They’re trying to pass each other. It gets a little hairy.”

As an employee of Pocahontas County Parks and Recreation, Lecroy said she loves the fact that the River Race began, and if it didn’t exist, she would definitely suggest the county start a race like this.

“It’s so wonderful they started this, because this should happen,” she said. “If it wasn’t happening – with my job at Parks and Rec – I would be, ‘we need to do an adventure race.’ It’s the perfect race.”

Veteran racer Susan Chappell, of Hillsboro, echoes Lecroy’s sentiment, saying the race is such a special event for the county.

“It’s a blast,” she said. “This particular race has the best feel to it – a psyched-up feeling, with good music, a live band and a great picnic. It has a celebratory atmosphere that is better than any other race I’ve ever participated in.”

As an older participant in the race, Chappell said it also gives her a fun way to keep in shape.

“It also gives me incentive to stay reasonably fit,” she said. “I’ve done it about fifteen years. It’s a mini-triathlon and it’s very doable for any age. I’m the oldest female in this race, in the solo females.”

While there are many recognizable faces from the county at the race, it attracts participants from all over the state and country.

Charleston-ites Lisa Westfall, Tiffany Harless, Allison Blanton and Kami Fleshman make the trek each year to enjoy the event with friends.

“It’s my favorite day of the year,” Westfall said. “Because we’re here with all our friends. We’re out competing and then drinking a lot of beer and hanging out.”

“It’s in a really pretty location, too,” Harless added. “Being on the river is a treat.”

Westfall agreed, saying, “it’s the prettiest county in the state.”

Husband and wife team Rob and Susan Osborne and their friend, Fred Lammie, all of Beckley, said they were hooked after their first time competing – 12 years ago for the Osbornes and four for Lammie.

“We come up and stay at Seebert and have a good time,” Susan said. “It’s for all different ages and everybody’s competitive, but everybody is still friendly and nice. You see the same people every year. It’s the only time you see them.”

The race is also an opportunity for participants to spread awareness. One team in particular – Challys Follies/Benjamin Button – consisting of Chally Erb and his daughter, Deva Wagner, participated in the race to raise awareness about ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Erb, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2014, found an interesting way to join his daughter in the race. This year, Erb dressed as a baby, complete with diaper, and was pushed in a baby carriage by Wagner during the run portion. He sat between two rowers in the canoe/ kayak portion and rode in a trailer attached to the bicycle of family friend Emily Griffith, who did the leg work. The group is from Lewisburg.

Erb said in an interview with the Mountain Messenger that he wants to be “the face of ALS in West Virginia.” He was certainly a breath of fresh air Saturday.

Results:

Female 16 and under: first place, Nola Todd, 11, of Charleston; second place, Abby Snodgrass, 16, of Midlothian, Virginia; and third place, Teagan Layne, 13, of Morehead, Kentucky.

Male 16 and under: first place, Zack Bishop, 15, of Dunbar; second place, Hunter Sweeney, 15, of Elkview; and third place, Josh Manos, 15, of Hilltop.

Female: first place, Lia Kelinsky, 29, of Blacksburg, Virginia; second place, Katie Houck, 29, of Fredericksburg, Virginia; and third place, Allison Blanton, 36, of Charleston.

Male: first place, Thomas Samples, 43, of Hurricane; second place, Andrew Rose, 42, of Glen Allen; and third place, Erick Roskos, 42, of Fairmont.

Female Masters: first place, Laurie Schlemm, 59, of King George, Virginia; second place, Liz Wickline, 53, of Lewisburg; and third place, Melissa Gamponia, 50, of Charleston.

Male Masters: first place, Doug Kirk, 52, of Winfield; second place, Ray Legge, 54, of Winchester, Virginia; and third place, William Jeffrey, 52, of South Charleston.

Female Senior Masters: first place, Susan Chappell, 62, of Marlinton; and second place, Lynne Ryan, 62, of Maidsville.

Male Senior Masters: first place, Eddie Sims, 69, of Richwood; second place, Edward Sharp, 76, of Fredericksburg, Virginia; and third place, Bill Lanehart, 60, of Clifton Forge, Virginia.

Fastest Finisher Team: The Sunny Hot Dogs – Abe Rittenhouse, Ben Rittenhouse and Jonathan Shenk.

Youth Team: first place, Three Amigos – Noah Edwards, Jacob Gesner and William Godby.

Male Team: first place, Half Fast Racing Team – Ray Adams, Kellyn Cassell and Phil Cole; second place, John Bonniston – Jake Krack and Eric Sharp; and third place, The Kegley Keggers – Timothy Sheets, Isaac Vanblaircom and Luke Vanblaircom.

Female Team: first place, Wonder Twins! – Alison Verey and Beth Wheatley; second place, South Branch River Pirates – Colleen Beatty, Laurel Dilley, Sarah Mallow and Amber Smith; and third place, Ambiguously Speedy Trio – Julie Carr, Courtney Crabtree and Kristy Yonyon.

Co-Ed Team: first place, Appalachian Bicycle Company – Mallory Iles, Gretchen McDonough and Stuart Schwab; second place, Team McDonald; and third place, Sunshine Daydreams – Christopher Anderholm and Jenny Aprile.

Family Team: first place, Team A2D – Doug Hyatt, Austin Joyner and Austin Reep; second place, Rich Hollow Racers – Fiano Beery, Spencer Beery and Steve Beery; and third place, The Holkies – Aiden Hoeft, Lindy Hoeft and Matthew Hoeft.

Masters Team: first place, Droop Mountain Boys – Gene Anderson, Karl Hartzell, Ron Smith and Kenneth Tubbs; second place, Two Guys and a Gal – Greg Bridgewater, Kelly Kuhn and Heather Wood; and third place, Plymale Branch Racing – Richard Horton and Jim Rogers.

Challenged Athlete Team: first place, Chally’s Follies/Benjamin Button – Chally Erb and Deva Wagner.

Senior Team: first place, Old Timers – Larry Carrico, Tom Workman and Sollie Workman; second place, Mountain Lions – Mike Carey, Steve Morton and Rex Repass; and third place, HikerBiker – Christine Sharp and Joseph Sharp.

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