Nearly 200 swim, run, bike to glory in Gator Bait

Published 12:30 am Sunday, August 24, 2014

Swimmers set out into Eagle Lake Saturday morning to start the 2014 Gator Bait Endurance Challenge. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

Swimmers set out into Eagle Lake Saturday morning to start the 2014 Gator Bait Endurance Challenge. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

Seven swift swimmers — six of them women — emerged as top finishers in seven open water swim categories in Saturday’s sixth annual Gator Bait Triathlon at Eagle Lake.
Youth swimmers from Vicksburg were scattered throughout various leaderboards among 183 participants in this year’s endurance challenge. Laura Butler, 17, and Leah Larson, 11, finished 1-2 in the half-mile open. Butler swam it in 14 minutes, 18.6 seconds; Larson in 19 minutes 49.8 seconds. They were among 11 from Vicksburg who placed highly in swims between a quarter-mile and a mile, including Blanton Mansfield, the youngest swimmer in any category. The eight-year-old swam the quarter-mile in 12 minutes, 24.1 seconds.
Kate Eidt, 51, of Jackson, won the one-mile masters segment, with a time of 29 minutes, 9.5 seconds. The oldest swimmer in any category was another Jacksonian, Virginia Lee Cora. The 75-year-old swam the mile in 1 hour, 16 seconds, 11.7 seconds.
Other winners in the swims were Mallory Dickey, 13, of Natchez, for the one-mile open; Tonya Malone, 37, of Flowood, for the half-mile masters; Audrey Capton, 13, of Brandon, for the quarter-mile open; John Fike, 54, of Jackson, for the quarter-mile masters; and Anna Grace Lorence, 11, of Brandon, for the quarter-mile for swimmers aged 12 and under.
Joey Lee, 46, of Madison, was the top male triathlete. The event began with a 1.5-kilometer swim in the lake, then moved to a 40-kilometer bicycle race before finishing with a 10-kilometer run. Lee was fastest in the series of physical challenges, with a time of 2 hours, 19 minutes, 39.6 seconds.
The top female triathlete was Memorie Finnie, 35, of Brandon. Her time for the three disciplines was 2 hours, 34 minutes, 30.3 seconds.
Organizers this year said the growing event could serve as a proving ground for those training for longer “Ironman” events, in which the swims are nearly a mile longer than the triathlon and the runs are a full marathon.
082414-gator-bait-js10WEB 082414-gator-bait-js9MAIN 082414-gator-bait-js8WEB 082414-gator-bait-js5WEB 082414-gator-bait-js4WEB“It’s just outstanding,” race director Matthew Mixon said. “It seems like even more of our local community comes out. Our broad spectrum this year was from 11 different states.”
Of the 183 participants who swam individually or were part of relay teams, 138 were from Mississippi, according to race registration sheets. Of those, 50 were from Vicksburg. Another 27 were from Louisiana, with the balance hailing from Alabama, Georgia and Illinois. The relay team names were creative — “Just Tri’ing” and “Eckstein” and “Ventricular Tachyholics” among them.
“Just the range of people it brought out was great,” Mixon said. “One group from Alabama is going back to recruit more people for next year.”
The first Gator Bait in 2009 was solely an open-water swimming event that attracted about 35 swimmers — mostly children from the Vicksburg Swim Association. In 2011, the triathlon was added and participation grew exponentially.
Mixon credited the lake itself and co-organizers for Saturday’s turnout. He expects the continued participation by area youth, particularly VSA children, to be the backbone of the event.
“The youth were great,” he said. “It takes a lot of talent and bravery to do what’s asked of them in these events.”

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