08/06/06 — Long distance dedication - Cherry wins triathlon for his mom

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Long distance dedication - Cherry wins triathlon for his mom

By Steve Roush
Published in Sports on August 6, 2006 2:11 AM

Dawson Cherry won for his mom.

While many people race to achieve personal goals, the 42-year-old Mount Olive native wasn't thinking about how great it felt to win as he crossed the finish line before more than 120 other competitors at the 21st annual Goldsboro Family YMCA Sprint Triathlon.

He was finishing a long distance dedication.

"This was for her," said Cherry, who graduated from Wayne Country Day and now lives in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. "This has been a tough year for her, and I was thinking about her the whole way."

Cherry was referring to his mother, Ginny, who is battling cancer and suffered a heart attack over the past year. She still lives in Mount Olive, and Cherry, who won the Goldsboro triathlon nearly two decades ago, came back to run in this year's race as a tribute to her.

"I haven't been at this race for years," he said. "It's been a long time."

Cherry finished more than three minutes ahead of Goldsboro's Stephen Frank, a U.S. Air Force pilot, who was the overall winner of last year's triathlon. Cherry's time of 1:14:59 beat the 33-year-old Frank's time of 1:18:19.

Nick Inabinet, 18, of Greenville, came in third (1:19:01).

The race that started and finished at Walnut Creek began with a half-mile swim, continued with a 20-mile bike ride to Seven Springs and back, and finished with a 5K run.

While Cherry's win was for his mother, Phyllis Mason's victory showed that age is just a number.

Mason, 58, was the first female to cross the finish line with a time of 1:30:22. Mason, who has now won five of the last six races in the women's division at Walnut Creek, bettered her last year's winning time by 37 seconds. She passed 27-year-old Cary resident Christina Newport (1:31:05) -- 32 years Mason's junior -- during the 5K run. Anne Bogey, 41, of Greenville finished third with a time of 1:31:45.

"I'm not ordinary for my age," said Mason, a Wilmington native. "I'm ranked No. 1 in the country in my age category, so I'm sure most people aren't used to seeing someone who is 58 beating people in their 20s and 30s.

"I've been racing for 21 years now, and this is one of my favorite races."

For Goldsboro's Don Neal and Jeff Dukay, this was their first triathlon -- and they loved every minute of it.

"This is one of the best experiences I've ever had," said Dukay, 38, who finished 11th in his age class with a time of 1:56:53. "We'll be back next year, that's for certain."

Dukay and Neal ran the race together. Neal, 44, ran a 1:56:44.

"It was a lot of fun," Neal said. "The swim was my biggest challenge. After that, I settled in. I started doing this to get in shape, and I finished today's race in less than two hours, which was my goal."

Dr. Sallie Wahl, 29, of Goldsboro, was also running in her first triathlon. She finished second in her age group with a time of 1:46:35.

"It was my first time ever, and it was a great experience," she said. "It was a lot of fun and a great venue for a triathlon. It was well organized and it was like a bunch of friends getting together and having a good time."

For C.C. Wilkins, however, this wasn't his first rodeo at Walnut Creek. Wilkins, 42, of Goldsboro, has missed just one race in 21 years.

That year, 1988, he was caught in a hurricane in Jamaica.

Wilkins is a fan favorite at the triathlon, which he helps organize each year, and often wears outlandish attire during the race. He's worn a hula skirt, sported a bikini, and has competed in a Superman costume.

But not this year.

"This year, it was all about speed -- it takes time to get on those crazy outfits," said C.C., who finished third in his age group with a time of 1:27:13. "I had to beat all my buddies, and they all went tumbling down."

That made one friend, Robert Van Meir, laugh.

"I'll get him at the Ironman in Florida," said Van Meir, 39, of Goldsboro, who finished with a time of 1:30:45. "But he always gets me here."

Wilkins, Van Meir, Charles Royal, Tony Worrell and Yvonne Spencer -- all Wayne County residents -- will take part in the Florida Ironman in early November.

Other area triathletes who finished in the Top 3 of their respective age category included: Elizabeth Nelson (1st in women's 30-34, 1:32:03); Frank Fisher (3rd in men's 35-39, 1:27:28); Spencer (2nd in women's 30-34, 1:42:41); Dr. Peter Roethling (2nd in men's 40-44, 1:26:46); Stephen Cecil (3rd in men's 50-54, 1:46:34); and Royal (1st in men's Clydesdales, 1:40:35).

Kriquette Davis, the associate executive director at the YMCA and the race director, was among those out at Walnut Creek at 3 a.m. Saturday morning to help ensure the race went off without a hitch.

"It was another great day for this race," Davis said. "We had nice weather considering how hot it has been, there was a nice breeze and even though it looked like it was going to storm, we just had a little bit of rain for a few minutes."

A 5K run was also held during the triathlon, and all proceed from that race went to the American Cancer Society.

James Orr, 25, of Greenville, finished first out of more than 70 runners with a time of 16:34.

Top finishers from the area in the 5K included: Nik Fredrick (1st in boys' 13-19, 17:54); Shelly Anderson (1st in girls' 13-19, 27:11); Carolyn Plummer (2nd in women's 50-54, 25:42); Darryl Mills (1st in men's 60-69, 37:21); Lee Adams (1st in men's 70-99, 42:21); Dee Dee Doherty (1st in women's 30-39, 20:40); Greg Connors (1st in men's 40-49, 18:01); Betty Lawson (1st in women's 40-49, 24:46); and Donnie Strickland (1st in men's 50-59, 22:16).