The End Zone Seat: Flooding Sinks Triathlon
For the past eight years on the Saturday of Columbus Day weekend, the Wyalusing area has been abuzz with activity.
Runners, paddlers and cyclists entered in the North Branch Triathlon made the town the center of Bradford County’s sporting scene for one day a year.
Unfortunately, because of the event’s namesake Susquehanna River, the event, which had been scheduled for Oct. 8, has been canceled.
The devastating flood that struck the region on Sept. 7-8 created such havoc, especially in Sugar Run where the competitors transitioned from the paddle portion of the race to the cycling leg at Endless Mountain Outfitters, that safety became a concern.
“The North Branch Triathlon has been canceled due to the flood caused by Lee,” said a notice on the home page for the Greater Wyalusing Chamber of Commerce (GWCC). “We are unable to provide a safe event by Oct. 8th.”
The statement goes on to say that anyone who had pre-registered will get their money back by Saturday, Oct. 1.
Wendy Gaustad, executive director of the GWCC, explained that all three legs of the course had been adversely affected by the storm and flood.
“We had washouts along the road for both the run and cycling legs,” Gaustad said.
As discouraging as the damage to the land portion of the race was, the boat accesses at Terrytown and Sugar Run were worse.
“We had a lot of debris at Terrytown,” Gaustad said.
“Dave Buck’s (owner of Endless Mountain Outfitters), was the epicenter. There are feet of mud which would also have affected parking there.”
As for the reimbursements to pre-registered competitors, Gaustad said there were only about 35 to return.
“We usually get a lot in the week leading up to the race,” she said.
Obviously, any time you base a sporting event around something as unpredictable as a Pennsylvania stream and river, there is always a possibility of a cancellation.
In fact, last year’s race was held with a deep and fast Susquehanna after a week of heavy rains prior to the event.
There have been other years when the paddle from Terrytown to Sugar Run was especially grueling because of low water levels.
Just because the race has been canceled doesn’t mean there aren’t good reasons to come to Wyalusing on Columbus Day weekend.
The other festivities, including entertainment, vendors and a downsized Pumpkin Float on Sunday, involved with the Wyalusing Fall Festival will be held.
One thing the triathlon did guarantee was a core group of people in town as the athletes, along with family and friends, stopped by afterwards for lunch and the awards ceremony.
When you consider that the race never drew less than 110 participants and as many as 192 in 2003, the Fall Festival will need local support more this year than ever.
Ironically, two other sporting events—the Camptown Races and Albany Valley Challenge runs— have been held since the flooding. In both cases, however, the usual town festivities were canceled as area residents continued to deal with the storm’s aftereffects, while the race courses were relatively unaffected from the storm..
Gaustad is optimistic that the rest of the weekend will turn out fine.
“We’re just going to hope for the best that it’s a beautiful day,” she said “Other events have been canceled that day so we’re hoping we may get those folks.”