Challenge pro field heats up

A field of male pros will be threatening hometown champion Jeff Symonds' attempt at grabbing back to back titles at this year's Valley First Challenge Penticton Canada.

They include Scott Defilippis from the U.S., who had a strong run time last year to take second place, as well as Adam O'Meara, who finished fourth male overall and is the only other top five 2013 placeholder returning.

Symonds said at a Friday press conference at the Penticton Lakeside Resort that the biggest reason he wanted to sign up was to support the race and the community.

"What really makes this race special is not the big things, but all the little moments," he said. "We need the entire city out to support the race and cheer people on."

When asked if he sees a rivalry starting between himself and Defilippis he said he sees them more as kindred spirits, the guys trying to catch triathlete Andrew Russell.

Strong competitor Russell and Defilippis joined Symonds at the press conference, along with Nathan Champness from Vernon.

Just 40 seconds shy of breaking into the Challenge Penticton top five male finishers in 2013, Champness recently took the men's title in the 32nd Peach Classic Triathlon in Penticton.

The female triathletes on hand were Jenn Annett of Penticton and Carrie Lester from Australia.

Annett said her choice to race Challenge again is simple.

"I really think we have a world-class course," she said. "It's amazing. I have trained every inch of it. We really do live in paradise here. I definitely hear other athletes talk about it too. When you are coming down Main Street to the finish with a huge crowd of spectators and have everyone cheering you on, no matter how much you hurt all the pain seems to disappear."

Annett was the top local female finisher for the inaugural 2013 race, coming in third overall for females in her first race as a professional.

Lester, last year's female winner, posted the fastest marathon for the women and set a course record with a finish time of 9:27:26.

Lester said she loves the town, (Penticton), and the course, and it is really a no brainer for her to come back and see if she can do better.

In addition to having so many top triathletes participating in Sunday's race, Challenge Penticton Canada is also about to make history as it adds a half-distance race to the race experience this year.

Challenge Penticton president Paulette Rennie, who was on hand Friday to welcome the athletes, said the race is the perfect place to introduce a half-iron.

More information is available on the Challenge Penticton website.



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