ST. PETERSBURG — Reporters, fans and camera crews surrounded Sarah Haskins as she crossed the finish line at the 31st St. Anthony’s Triathlon Sunday morning, but her littlest fan — the one she ran for — was sound asleep in her stroller.
Haskins, 33, led the female triathletes with a time of 1:56:44, her new record for the Olympic-distance course that kicks off triathlon season. Sunday marked Haskins fifth win in the race, which drew about 50 professionals and more than 2,000 athletes from 20 countries and 40 states to the North Shore Park finish line. They swam 1.5 kilometers, biked 40 kilometers and ran 10 kilometers around St. Petersburg for a $65,000 prize purse.
Haskins’ feat came just 9 months after giving birth to her first child, daughter Caroline.
“You never know how a race will turn out and I honestly had no clue I had won until the very end,” Haskins said. “I try to schedule training around nap time and nursing, and it’s a very fine art that starts off really slow because you have to listen to your body. Now I know its doable, and as much as I’ve always loved racing I love even more that I can do it while being a mother.”
Born in St. Louis, the Clermont transplant always knew she was destined to become an Olympian, said her mother Becky Haskins. She was on swim teams by the time she was 5, running on the high school track and cross country team by her freshmen year and spent four years running for the University of Tulsa with an athletic scholarship. When she was 22 she entered her first professional race, and the rest is history, Becky said. She even met her husband and coach, former professional triathlete Nathan Kortuem, in the Olympic training facility in 2004.
“For me, it was love at first sight. I don’t know if she would say the same,” Kortuem said. “It was a little nerve-racking when she started running again after the baby, but after taking a year off from racing its awesome to see her come back so strong and regain this huge part of who she is. It seems like racing is more fulfilling now. There’s more joy and you can just see how great she feels.”
About three months after her pregnancy, Haskins training started slow, with plenty of breaks through the holidays to “just enjoy being a mom,” Sarah said. For her comeback, the Olympian competed and won three Florida races just a short drive from her home in Clermont already this year. But St. Anthony’s was the goal.
The St. Petersburg race is one of the premier events in the U.S., said Swiss athlete Reudi Wild, who won the race overall with a time of 1:46:46. Wild just edged out second place Colorado athlete Cameron Dye in the final few hundred meters of the run.
“This race is a fantastic way to start the season and has fierce competitors, but more so it creates a community of people from all over the world who love the sport,” said Wild, who stayed with St. Pete residents who volunteered to be a host home for the traveling athletes. “It’s nice to win a race, but when I look back in my last years what I’m going to remember are the friends and the memories you make along the way,” he said. “When you’re competing they become your family.”
For many competitors, events like St. Anthony’s are about those bonding moments more than anything else. After Sarah finished shaking hands and smiling for cameras, she made her way with her family to the race barricades to cheer on other runners and look for loved ones. Her father Brain Haskins, 58, ran Sunday with “Sarah Haskins’ Dad” emblazoned on his wetsuit.
“He likes the attention,” Becky said. “In a short race, he just might win. But today, I don’t think so.”
In about five years, Brian Haskins has lost about 50 pounds competing in the amateur races at events like St. Anthony’s. Now that racing has become a family affair, the team is unstoppable and their bond unbreakable, they say.