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Husband-wife duo take titles in Columbus sprint triathlon

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Moments after Ben Weaver crossed the finish line and discovered he had won his fifth Columbus Challenge sprint triathlon Saturday morning, his wife Leslie came sprinting in as the first female finisher.

As Ben greeted Leslie with a hug and kiss, they shared a realization they hadn’t had in 15 years of competition — the pair were finally the men’s and women’s winners of the same race on the same day.

The Weavers were competing in a triathlon together for the ninth consecutive weekend. Leslie, 39, a teacher at Columbus North and girls cross-country coach at Columbus East, has finished in the top three in eight of those, including a victory in Cincinnati.

“I love being in my hometown, so that’s the best part,” Leslie said.

Ben, 45, a personal trainer at Columbus Fit and owner of Epic Coaching and Personal Training, won a triathlon in Oxford, Ohio, earlier this summer. He estimates that he and Leslie have each won 15 to 20 triathlons — but never before at the same time.

“It’s a ton of fun,” Leslie said. “It’s nice to have a spouse that not only supports what you do, but also races so you have an understanding of what your training takes during the week. It’s 100 percent support from each other. It’s nice to always see Ben when I cross the finish line. I know he’s there waiting for me.

“Plus, it’s a healthy lifestyle that we like to live,” she said.

That healthy lifestyle is one they’re sharing with Ben’s daughter, Sarah, and her boyfriend, Evan Elsbury, both East graduates and Indiana University students. They’ve competed with Ben and Leslie in four triathlons this summer, including the past three weekends.

“We travel all over the Midwest,” Leslie said. “Our daughter is in college now, and she and her boyfriend have taken up the sport, so we took the opportunity to make this a family summer of racing.”

Saturday, Ben finished the half-mile swim, 15-mile bike and 5K (3.1-mile) run through Tipton Lakes and the surrounding area in 1 hour, 13 minutes, 49 seconds, beating runner-up Marc Spratt of Nineveh by 14 seconds. Leslie finished sixth overall in 1:25:11, nearly six minutes ahead of second-place female finisher Julia Wilson of Columbus.

Sarah, meanwhile, won the Girls 18 to 20 age group in 1:41:20.

“This summer, we’ve had a lot of success in terms of results, but I think the most we’re going to take away from this summer is being able to finally do this as a family,” Ben said. “Those kids are old enough to do it as an adult, so they do the exact same races, toe the same start line, they’re at the same finish line, so it’s been a whole new summer for us.”

In the Olympic distance triathlon, Laura Heckroth of Columbus defended her women’s title, winning in 2:17.52. The event featured a 1,500-meter swim, 23-mile bike ride and 10K (6.2-mile) run.

“There’s always a lot of competition at this race, so you never know what to expect exactly,” Heckroth said. “But it was an honor to win.”

Nathan Spratt of Nineveh won the men’s Olympic distance race in 1:56.37.

The most exciting race of the day came in the duathlon, a run-bike-run event which was held for the first time this year. Tim Proctor held off a hard-charging Danny Fisher over the final 5K run to win in 1:13:45, seven seconds ahead of his fellow Columbus resident.

Elizabeth Vogel, a 21-year-old Columbus native and IU senior competing in her first multi-sport event, was the women’s duathlon winner in 1:38:10.

“I just came out wanting to finish in one piece,” Vogel said. “Me and Megan (Agnew, her roommate and runner-up) both had a goal to finish in under two hours, and it went a lot better that we expected.”

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