The annual Wasa Triathlon is celebratng its 20th anniversary, filled with the same family-minded focus as always.
The triathlon has come a long way from its humble beginnings, gathering more and more participants over the years. Events taking place at the 20th annual edition this coming weekend include the TriKids, Sprint, Olympic and Relay styles.
“I don’t know the exact numbers of the earlier days but it was more around 30 to 40 individuals and a bunch of relay teams,” said Charlie Cooper, one of the main organizers of the event.
“In 1999, I think, there were 90 participants. In 2001 we had 180, the following year in 2002 it got up to 360, and in the last two years, 2011 and 2012, we had about 1,200 participants come out to Wasa.”
Not only has the triathlon increased in numbers from past years, but it has also increased its diversity of contestants — participants ranging from beginning runners at their first event to those at the peak of their physical condition challenging themselves.
“It’s not just for the hard-core athletes, we’ve seen a big increase especially in women that just want to try and take on new healthy challenges in biking and running,” Cooper said.
“We’ve had people of all walks of life that take on the challenge.”
In 2003, the Wasa triathlon incorporated something unique that most triathlons don’t provide, which is a race for children and teens. Numbers of youth participating have now grown to about 400.
“The number one thing for the Wasa triathlon is that it is a family event and it’s for everybody. We’ve had families from all over and we will have families where pretty much every member participates.”
Cooper said that the changes to the triathlon not only helped increase numbers at the event, but allowed the Triathlon to accommodate all kinds of athletes.
“The history of it, since its 20th anniversary, goes way back to the Cranbrook Swim Club with their Masters Club. A group of them decided to put on a triathlon and the first one was in 1993.”
However, Cooper said that there have been challenges along the way, one of the being the lull in the year 2000 when no one was available to put it on.
“We managed to get a group back together and that was kind of my first big year of involvement in 2001. We got a committee back together and so I have been involved ever since. It will be my 13th year this year,” Cooper said.
“We’ve had tremendous support from the community, sponsors, businesses,” Cooper said. “For any event to survive it needs lots of partners.”
As the community has given to the Wasa Triathlon and made it thrive, Cooper said that returning the favor is one of the main priorities of the committee — giving back to the community by setting up donations for volunteer groups, such as the individuals who help the participants in the water.
“At the same time, I do hire a lot of businesses that come to help out. I collect money and I pass it out back to the contributors.”
One of things Cooper values that he sees at the triathlon is the location — Wasa Lake and campground, which he believes is a beautiful location under the Rockies.
“It’s always been my goal to see that event flourish and be like a destination spot. I can say with the numbers and the response that it’s achieved that. The Committee is quite proud of that.”
For those participating, it is not just about competing to win a prize or be the best – but about the act of accomplishing a challenging run.
“In terms of the values of other people coming to the event I think they are goal setting, being healthy, keeping a balanced lifestyle,” Cooper said.
“Life is not getting easier. I think overall life is getting more stressful and financially tougher for people but I think if we try and keep life fun a little bit, with a little bit of physical activity and little bit of a sense of adventure, that’s good. I think the Wasa Triathlon brings that.”
In celebration of the 20th anniversary, the committee has come up with a new logo for the triathlon and the event will have a market feel – with food vendors and some other stands to give participants opportunities to stock up on memorabilia of the race.
“We are just going to continue focusing on, what we feel we do really well, which is produce a quality event that puts the athletes first and we don’t want to get away from that by putting in any gimmicky things,” Cooper said.
“We are just trying to make the athletes feel special for the 20th anniversary.”
The event in this upcoming weekend, June 8 and 9, at Wasa Lake. For more information and for registration go to http://www.rmevents.com/WasaTriathlon.htm.