HOT SPRINGS – Nearly 200 Triathletes from eleven states will be converging to Hot Springs, SD for the 26th Annual Southern Hills Triathlon, to be held at the Angostura State Recreation Area at Breakers Beach Sep. 2, 2023. It is a premier triathlon in South Dakota.
“It will be a very exciting year of racing since last year was a record year and we are back as strong as ever,” said Brendan Murphy, race director of the Southern Hills Triathlon. “I very much look forward to an incredible number of participants this coming Labor Day weekend. It will be an amazing event for sure!”
Brendan Murphy, the race director since 2021, resides in Rapid City and has been an avid triathlete. Murphy has completed various triathlons over the past 24 years, whereby his very first triathlon was the Southern Hills Triathlon in 1999. Murphy has also completed two full Ironman competitions (Florida and Boulder).
Barb Fetters, the previous race director, along with her husband, Pat Russell and a very dedicated and involved team of volunteers from the Friends of the Hot Springs Library, have done an incredible job of assisting Murphy with the yearly event to ensure it is a memorable family-fun, community event.
Since its inception in 1998, the Southern Hills Triathlon has always run on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend in the Southern Hills at Angostura. Fetters and Russell have continued to foster the long-standing partnership with The Southern Hills Triathlon and the Friends of the Hot Springs Library. Part of the proceeds will continue to go toward fundraising efforts for the Friends of the Hot Springs Library and directly benefit the Library.
Murphy has had great success the past couple of years since taking over the race and he intends on keeping the history and family-fun community event thriving for many years to come. “I am humbled to be associated with this wonderful triathlon,” said Murphy. “And it was an honor to assume the role of race director because my very first triathlon was The Southern Hills Tri back in 1999. It is this very race that got me to love the world of triathlon and endurance sports.”
Murphy said he wanted to take over the race in order to get kids and their families interested in fitness and this lifelong sport allows a family to swim, bike and run together. “It’s a fantastic way to get kids off their electronics and go outside and explore the world they live in,” said Murphy.
It all started 26 years ago by three individuals, Father Mark McCormick of Rapid City, SD, John Blatchford of Brookings, SD, and Mark Rude of Casper, Wyoming. They all watched that year’s Kona Ironman on TV and were so inspired that they wanted to get out there and create their own event. The Southern Hills Triathlon was born. Labor Day weekend back in 1998.
Even though the first years of the race were smaller in size, there has always been something special about The Southern Hills Triathlon and the support given by so many wonderful community members. Every year the venue has grown from around a couple of dozen the first years, to nearly 200 the last couple of years.
“It is very exciting to see the sport grow and the numbers here grow with it,” said Murphy. “I love participating in the sport of triathlon, but I really love seeing so many people come out and challenge themselves and display their love of fitness. I especially love to see the youth come out because that is the most fun part of the day in my opinion. They are the future of the sport!”
There are nearly 30 youth (ages 6-12) signed up so far, which is fantastic for a youth triathlon event. Murphy hopes to continue to draw interest from the younger generation. There are so many health benefits of participating in a sport like triathlon,” said Murphy.
When speaking to long-time friends, Matt and Joslyn Konenkamp of Rapid City, who have 4 sons that have participated in the triathlon, Matt stated: “They gain a sense of achievement and pride that comes when they cross that finish line. It is amazing to watch their big smiles as they earn that race medal and it gets placed around their neck. It is really special to see.”
Black Hills State University out of Spearfish, SD, will be sending 9 of their women triathletes. Their head triathlon coach, Connie Feist has done a great job recruiting talented athletes to the program and this race is their first official event for their season. “I am very excited about our team this year. We have a great mix of girls and a lot of talent. We love The Southern Hills Triathlon because it is a well-run and fun event for my girls and it allows us to start off the season in our own Black Hills.
And one of the most interesting stories for this year’s race is the wonderful family traveling all the way from Heber City, UT. Eric and Eliza Woodland possess a wonderful and unique story with their daughter, Halle, that is simply inspiring.
They are traveling more than 600 miles with their 20-year-old daughter, Halle, to compete in the Sprint distance team event. Interestingly, Halle is unable to compete physically in the triathlon due to a congenital condition of cerebral palsy. But that is not stopping Halle from competing. She is teaming up with her mom and dad and her uncle, Dr. Joshua Nierhring, a periodontist in Rapid City and co-owner of Dakota Regional Periodontics & Dental Implants. They competed in this race back in 2021.
This amazing story is similar to one you may have heard in the world of triathlon before. Team Hoyt, referring to father Dick Hoyt and his son Rick Hoyt from Holland, Massachusetts. The Hoyt’s competed in various athletic endeavors including Ironman competitions. Rick has cerebral palsy, just like Halle, and that is stopping either of them from competing.
Dr. Niehring will be competing in the swim portion with Halle, while she enjoys a ride in an inflatable raft. Once they complete the swim portion, Halle will be carried up the beach to the transition area where she will then make her transition to the bike with her father. The Woodlands have a specially modified bike that allows Halle to compete just like the other competitors. And on the final leg, Eliza, Halle’s mom, will run with Halle using that specially modified running apparatus so Halle can ride along on the 3.1 mile run course in style.
The youngest participant signed up is just 6 years old and the oldest is 82 years old. This goes to show you that kids of all ages can compete in a triathlon and have fun doing it.
The people traveling the farthest are coming from Sarasota, FL nearly 2000 miles away! America’s MarathonMan, Jerry Dunn, who lived in the Black Hills for many years, is traveling the farthest and over the past 25 years, Jerry has been involved as a participant, a volunteer and as a supporter of the Southern Hills Triathlon.
Dunn is on a mission this year. He approached Murphy with an idea that is unique and never been seen in triathlons or any racing venue. “How about creating a brand new category for those of us that are up there in years, but still have a competitive edge and drive?” said Dunn. “We could call it the 200 year old Challenge.”
Murphy loved the idea and so the idea turned into reality and adopted to The Southern Hills Triathlon. The 200-year-old Challenge is designed for the Olympic distance relay race. The combined ages of the 3-person team must equal or exceed 200 years.
Dunn and his teammates will be doing the long course, or Olympic distance. Bob Meyer, the oldest participant at 82 and is from Spearfish, and Paulette Kirby is from Silver City. “If there were an award for the oldest cumulative age of a team participating in the event, I’m sure we would win with our combined ages being over 200 years,” said Dunn.
“I am excited for the future of this event. I’ve always thought there was great potential for growth of the Southern Hills Triathlon and with Brendan’s desire, experience and passion for the sport, and given the beauty of the venue, I know that great things will just continue to make this the destination race to be at.”
The Southern Hills Triathlon would like to recognize that this race would not be the success it is without all of the fantastic support from the 39 sponsors and nearly 60 volunteers that are helping make this race a premier triathlon in South Dakota.
There are amazing age group awards to be presented to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners in each age group, custom finisher medals, overall male and female awards for both the Olympic and Sprint distances, team awards and incredible door prizes.
The annual Southern Hills Triathlon begins with the Packet pick-up on Friday, September 1, at Breakers Beach at Angostura (28075 Recreation Rd, Hot Springs, SD 57747) from 5:30 PM until 7:00 PM.
The race day activities will begin on Saturday, Sep 2 with packet pick-up from 6:00 am– 7:00am at the transition area located next to Inferno’s on Breakers Beach. Participants who did not pick up their packets on Friday will arrive to pick up theirs and set up at
6:00am. The pre-race meeting begins at 7:00am and will cover all the safety rules and race details for the adult participants.
The Olympic Race begins at 7:30am and the Sprint distance race for the collegiate and age-group participants begins at 8:00am. Most of the racers will be finished with by the time the youth race starts at 10:00am. This allows the adult participants and spectators to enjoy the racing festivities and to be the best cheering section for our youth.
Upon completion of all the races, there will be a lot of post-race food, beverages, music, an awards ceremony and door prizes giveaway. Murphy stated “It is certainly shaping up to be another amazing race day and I am very excited to continue this long tradition of promoting fitness, community and family fun.”