Triathlon gladiators champion fitness

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Once again, military and civilian gladiators of competition gathered at the coliseum of fitness here to compete in an open battlefield of water, bicycle and running shoes known as the Fitness Center Triathlon. 

The prize of battle competed for? 

To beat their own time, to prove they could and last but not least--because it is fun. 

The Whiteman Fitness Center's triathlon consisted of a 438 meter swim (approximately a quarter mile); a 10 kilometer bicycle route (approximately six miles) and a 5 kilometer run (approximately three miles). 

The ages of the competitors ranged from youthful men and women to middle-aged and senior warriors of fitness wearing the breastplates of determination--all of them bearing their own reasons for entering the competition. 

"Word regarding the triathlon came to me three weeks ago," said Army National
Guard Captain Alan Brown, with the 835th Combat Support Battalion at Jefferson City, Mo. "I wanted to see if I could still swim." 

The itch of competition drew Senior Airman Estiven Gonzalez, 509th Operations Support Squadron survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialist to the fitness arena. "I just showed up," he said. "I feel competitive and I'm looking to finish under an hour." 

"I'm turning 40 and this is an opportunity to prove to myself that I have that fitness edge" said Capt. Keith Yersak, 442nd Fighter Wing executive officer. 

"I'm happy just as long as I can beat my wife's time," said Tech. Sgt. Ryan Graney, 509th Maintenance Group. Sergeant Graney is married to Eva Graney, a physical therapist of the 509th Medical Group who also participated in the triathlon with her husband. 

There were two couples of husband and wife who dared to bond their commitment of love on the battlefield of the triathlon. Army Capt. Kelly Van Veldhuizen, Army Military Intelligence Readiness Command, and Air Force Capt. Eric Van Veldhuizen, 13th Bomb Squadron, were the second couple. 

The guardians of the Whiteman Fitness Center, under the direction of Mr. Greg Hauser, Fitness Center director, made preparations for the event hours before the arrival of gladiators who were outfitted with the best bicycle alloys and clothed in the strongest nylons and spandex . 

Equipment and clothing are only part of the equation that make for competition in the triathlon. 

"I dedicate five hours per week for physical training," said SSgt Brian Frank, 509th Logistics Readiness Squadron Unit Training Manager and first place contestant in overall time. "It takes many years to find out what works for you in terms of preparation and nutrition. I find that competition keeps you motivated to train."

Sergeant Frank has been competing in fitness events since 2002. 

"This is the fitness center's seventh triathlon event," said Staff Sgt. Henry Lopez, Fitness Center programs director. "We wanted to host an event that is challenging and promotes the positive benefits of physical fitness." 

Those ideals evolved into five categories of first and second place top finishers. The categories with the top finishers are: 

Male Individual Category
1st place - Staff Sgt. Brian Frank, 509th Logistics Readiness Squadron
(45 minutes: 17 seconds)
2nd place - Maj. Mike Wittrock, 394th Combat Training Squadron (52 minutes)

Female Individual Category
1st place - Master Sgt. Heather Sells, 442nd Mission Support Flight
(104 minutes: 31 seconds)
2nd place - Tech. Sgt. Eva Graney ,509th Medical Operations Squadron
(105 minutes: 27 seconds)

Over 40 Male Category
1st place - Capt. Alan Brown, Army National Guard, 835th Combat Support
Battalion (51 minutes: 25 seconds)
2nd place - Mr. Thomas McGinnis (54 minutes: 16 seconds)

Over 40 Female Category
1st place - Ms. Stacey Eggers (104 minutes; 37 seconds)

Team Category
1st place - 2nd Lt. Ben Coffman, 509th Contracting Squadron, and
Mr. Paul Basel (40 minutes: 34 seconds)
2nd place - Capt. Charlotte Boswell, 509th Bomb Wing, and Senior Airman Estiven Gonzalez, 509th Operations Support Squadron
(53 minutes: 32 seconds)