Relieved racers at the 2019 Rotary Multi-Sport RiverFest on Sunday, Sept. 15 (David Barker/Special to Salem Reporter)

Athletes are a dedicated bunch. Despite a downpour of rain and gloomy weather, hundreds of runners, bikers, swimmers, para-athletes and even one chihuahua participated in the 2019 Salem Rotary Multi-Sport Riverfest.

The event, sponsored by the South Salem and Downtown Salem Rotary Clubs, took place Sunday, Sept. 15. at Salem Riverfront and Minto-Brown Island parks. It involved a triathlon, duathlon, 10K, 5K and 1K fun run past the Peter Courtney Bridge and around the Eco-earth Globe.

South Salem Rotary leader Robert Chandler was the race coordinator. Other club members Andrew Sprauer and wife Katie Sprauer participated. Club President Jill Tucker did the 1K with her 9-year old chihuahua, Evelyn, in a stroller. 

After athletes crossed the finish line, many wrapped themselves in shiny silver space blankets or visited the physical therapy team at Northwest Rehabilitation Associates. Owner Mike Studer both raced and took home a medal. Dean Chambers, a chapter captain from Team RWB, ran with an American flag. Team RWB’s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity. Grace Crookham-Guy took first place for women in the sprint triathlon.

The third annual iteration of the event drew hundreds of athletes and volunteers to one of Salem’s largest athletic challenges. To avoid the deluge, participants sought refuge in a tent set up next to the Rotary Pavilion. There athletes could get lunch sponsored by Cafe Yumm!, healthy snacks from LifeSource, or learn about Shelter Box from Anthony Hanson. ShelterBox is an international disaster relief charity developed by Rotarians. 

A para-athlete team organized by the nonprofit Angel City Sports Oregon also competed. The para-athletes were Emmy Pfankuch, Hadassah Benson and Kayla Bolnick. Unfortunately, the team experienced a disqualification in the bike leg of the race due to a flat tire.

Not to be deterred, the anchor leg and Emmy decided to finish the race (even though they knew their times wouldn't count). Thirteen-year-old Emmy, using a track-racing wheelchair, had never completed a 5K, so on top of the 1-mile even she had already completed, she pushed to the point of blisters on her fingers to finish the 5K with her teammates. All three girls completed the last 100 yards together. Jill Pfankuch, Emmy’s mother and president of Angel City Sports Oregon, watched proudly as they finished together.

Everyone received recognition for participating. The overall winners took home exceptionally beautiful awards crafted by Willamette Valley Woodturners. Aimee Belliard and Harvey Gail passed medals to Salem Mayor Chuck Bennett, who placed them ceremoniously over winners’ heads.

 Proceeds will be used to support Rotary’s community and international service projects.

Learn more about Rotary at www.IsRotaryForYou.com and see race results soon at https://rotaryriverfestsalem.org

Runners at the 2019 Rotary Multi-Sport RiverFest on Sunday, Sept 15. (David Barker/Special to Salem Reporter)

Grace Crookham-Guy shows off her medal next to Robert Chandler at the 2019 Rotary Multi-Sport RiverFest on Sunday, Sept. 15. (David Barker/Special to Salem Reporter)

A biker races at the 2019 Rotary Multi-Sport RiverFest on Sunday, Sept. 15 (David Barker/Special to Salem Reporter)

Dean Chambers at the 2019 Rotary Multi-Sport RiverFest on Sunday, Sept. 15.(David Barker/Special to Salem Reporter)

Anthony Hanson volunteers for Shelter Box at the 2019 Rotary Multi-Sport RiverFest on Sunday, Sept. 15. (David Barker/Special to Salem Reporter)

Mary Louise VanNatta is a Salem public relations professional writing a regular column for Salem Reporter. Tell her about your upcoming event at [email protected] or follow her on Facebook.