The organizers of the Philadelphia Escape Triathlon took swimming out of the equation for Sunday’s race because of storms this weekend. That didn’t stop Jason West from breaking the tape in the men’s Olympic race ahead of Olympians and former champions.
Although he lives and trains in Boulder, Colo., West is a Quakertown High graduate who attended Penn State. He raced on Sunday in front of a crowd of friends and family, finishing at the top of the podium for the second time this year.
The Schuylkill was declared unsafe for swimming and the course was modified to include a two-mile run in place of the 1,500-meter swim that typically starts a triathlon. Competitors ran for two miles, bicycled for 24.8, and finished with a 4.2-mile run. Sunday was a day of competition for many professional and amateur triathletes, with nearly 1,500 participating in the Olympic-length race.
West surged ahead in the first running portion of the race, exiting at the head of the pack. But he was passed in the cycling section by his two toughest competitors, Ben Kanute of Tucson, Ariz., and Cameron Dye of Boulder. Kanute represented the United States in the Olympics last summer and Dye has taken home the Philadelphia Triathlon championship four times in his career.
West was prepared for the pair to pass him on their bikes, but he refused to fall too far behind and caught back up in the final lap. His victory came in the second run, his strongest part of the event. West hit the ground at a sprint, finishing his first mile in 4 minutes, 40 seconds.
“It’s so hard when you’re racing Olympians and some of the best guys in the world,” West said. “I was so motivated, I was able to push through anything at that point.”
When he passed Kanute to take the lead, West surged even faster, hoping to make it clear that he couldn’t be caught. He finished the triathlon in 1 hour, 29:09 seconds, crossing the line 20 seconds before Kanute and 23 seconds before Dye.
The women’s Olympic race was less closely contested, with Alicia Kaye of Clermont, Fla., finishing in 1:41:12 to take first. After the first run, Kaye was jostling for first with Cecilia Davis-Hayes, who won last year’s Philadelphia Triathlon. But Kaye took a dominant lead on her bike, stretching the gap to finish almost two minutes ahead of Davis-Hayes, of New York. Kristen Marchant of Brampton, Ontario, took third.
Although she finished well ahead of the field, Kaye credited her performance to the level of competition participating in the race.
“The field of women was really strong,” Kaye said. “They really challenged me. I thought I would get away on the bike more than I did. Those women really pushed me today.”