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Running start: Triathlon proposed in Houghton

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Mary Kaminski addresses the Houghton City Council Wednesday about the proposed Verna Mize Triathlon. An enthusiastic council unanimously gave tentative approval to the triathlon, pending final approval by City Manager Eric Waara and Police Chief John Donnelly.

HOUGHTON — For the first time in years, triathletes could be swimming, biking and running in Houghton.

At the Houghton City Council Wednesday, Mary Kaminski presented a plan for a triathlon that would take place Aug. 7, the day after Michigan Technological University’s alumni reunion.

Phi Kappa Tau had started one locally in 1987, Kaminski said. Hancock and Copper Harbor also had triathlons for many years, Kaminski said. All are now inactive.

“The alumni coming back, they might remember this,” she said. “They could do their thing, be done by 10, and then watch their kids go through.”

The triathlon would be named after Verna Mize, a Houghton native and activist famed for stopping the dumping of mining waste into Lake Superior. Mize’s family loves the idea, Kaminski said.

Registration would be $5, cash only, Kaminski said. Once expenses are paid, the rest would go to the city for Verna Mize Park. The city is relocating the park and its monuments from M-26 to the waterfront to make it more visible.

There would be two divisions — individual and team — and two age groups, 15 and under and 16 and over.

“The distances are very doable and high school athletes are very good,” Kaminski said.

The hub of the triathlon would be the far east end of the Kestner Waterfront Park parking lot; adults would start at 8 a.m., and the youth division at 10 a.m.

The adult division would swim a quarter-mile toward the Portage Lake Lift Bridge and back, with subsequent round-trips of biking to Schmidt’s Corner (about 8 miles roundtrip) and running 8 kilometers to and from the Great Lakes Research Center.

Children would swim an eighth of a mile and back, then bike to Mill Road (about 4 miles) and run about 5 kilometers roundtrip to the East Houghton Waterfront Park.

Medals would be awarded to first, second and third place winners. An awards ceremony would be held at noon.

There would be people at all road crossings and turnarounds to keep track of participants, Kaminski said. Boats would also patrol the swimmers; for the Hancock triathlon, the Coast Guard, Houghton County Sheriff’s Department and Department of Natural Resources all had boats in the water, Kaminski said.

Councilor Mike Needham suggested reaching out to the Copper Country Ski Tigers, who had both competed in and helped organize the sprint triathlon in Hancock.

The council unanimously voted for preliminary approval of the plans, pending final approval by City Manager Eric Waara and Police Chief John Donnelly, who would review the plan for any concerns. Donnelly said since the bike route extends onto county roads, the Houghton County Sheriff’s Department would also need to be involved.

“It’s great to see something happen again,’ Mayor Pro Tem Robert Megowen said. “It’s been a long time since there was a running race in Houghton.”

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