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Staff photo by John Rawlston/Chattanooga Times Free Press After finishing the bicycle portion of the race, Jordan Hersko leaves the staging area to begin his run during the Chattanooga Riverfront Triathlon on Sunday, June 28, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

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Perfect weather boosts Waterfront Triathlon

Even though he lives less than two hours away in Atlanta, this weekend was the first time Chris Douglas visited Chattanooga.

After winning Sunday's Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon, it's likely the Scenic City made a good first impression.

"I've never even been to Chattanooga — this race is what brought me here," Douglas said. "The people here are awesome. The volunteers were extremely friendly.

"I was alone on the run, and it was really nice to have all the volunteers cheering for me. There's some places where it's just so lonely out on the run, but here I never really got lonely, which is great."

A stormy Saturday gave way to a spectacular Sunday, pushing the humidity out of the area and giving race director Jenni Berz, the volunteers and the competitors great conditions for the race run locally by the Chattanooga Track Club.

"It's been a perfect day," Berz said. "The weather's been perfect, I don't know of anything that went wrong on the course, I've had really great feedback from all of the racers and the volunteers have been awesome. We've just had a great day.

"I really try not to obsess too much about the weather, because it's one of those things that I have no control over. But I did notice they were calling for perfect weather today, so I was really psyched and looking forward to it.

Douglas was the only competitor to break the two-hour barrier, finishing the 1.5-kilometer (0.93-mile) swim, 42K (26.09-mile) bike ride and 10K (6.2-mile) run in 1 hour, 58 minutes and 26 seconds. Jonathan Feddock of Lexington, Ky., finished just more than two minutes later at 2:00:53. John Wiygul had the best finish among local competitors, placing ninth in 2:05:55.

"I got the lead on the bike," Douglas said. "I had a pretty solid swim — I was happy with it — and I've always been really quick in transition. I try to spend as little time as I can there, and I think that gave me an edge.

"But I really did most of my work on the bike."

In the women's competition, Lori Williamson of Birmingham, Ala., was the top overall finisher at 2:13:08 — less than a minute ahead of Meghan DeGan in second place. Sunday was Williamson's third race put on by the Nashville-based race production company Team Magic, and she's been the top female finisher each time.

"Everything went perfectly," said Williamson, who plans to return to Chattanooga this fall to compete in her first full Ironman triathlon, which is a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a marathon (26.2 miles). "The course was marked thoroughly, which is really important, and volunteers were out there handing out water when you needed it.

"You didn't have to worry about anything."

With Ironman currently running two major triathlons in Chattanooga and several other endurance competitions having made the area home, the Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon has become one of the elder statesmen of triathlons here. In two decades, it's grown from a small, primarily local event to a premier regional triathlon with more than 1,000 competitors from several states taking part Sunday.

"The Chattanooga Track Club has been putting on this race for 22 years," Berz said. "We started partnering with Team Magic eight years ago when the Waterfront was developed.

"I feel like we've had a good part in setting the foundation for triathlons in this city. I'm thrilled to be part of this community and part of making events like this happen."

Contact Jim Tanner at JFTanner@bellsouth.net. Follow him at twitter.com/JFTanner.

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