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Clay swims, bikes, runs to Oregon Trail title

WOLF CREEK RESERVOIR — Dominic Clay has been trying to beat Michael Rushton for the past three years, and last Saturday, Clay finally crossed the finish line before Rushton.

Clay won the Oregon Trail Sprint Triathlon at Wolf Creek Reservoir, finishing in a time of 1 hour, 4 minutes, 53.1 seconds. 

Rushton finished second with a time of 1:05:53.1. Clay said the win was a satisfying one.

“It feels really good because I’ve been trying to beat (Mike) for a long time,” said Clay, 17, of La Grande. “There is at least one sprint triathlon a year where he beats me.”

Rushton, 44, said he knew it was only a matter of time before the younger Clay caught up to him.

“The first time I beat (Dominic) he was 14, and every year he gets a little faster,” said Baker City’s Rushton. “I was hoping I could hold him off one more year, but no such luck.”

Clay was able to get a jump start on everyone else in the swim portion of the race.

He finished the swim in 9 minutes, 49.2 seconds, while Rushton didn’t come 5.1-second mark.

“I’m a swimmer originally,” Clay said.

Rushton was able to make up just four seconds in the 12-mile bike portion to North Powder and back, but he did close the gap in the run section by 1 minute, 20 seconds.

“I started to get a stitch about halfway through the run, but I just kind of ran it out and started to feel good again,” Clay said.

In the end, Clay was just too far ahead for Rushton to catch.

“I could see him by the end, but that was about it,” Rushton said with a laugh. “But I can’t feel bad about that – losing to a really good triathlete.”

This was the first year a sprint triathlon was held at Wolf Creek.

Petra Evans of Joseph was third overall and the first female to cross the finish line. She had a time of 1:23:37.3. Dan Lees was fourth overall with a time of 1:25:57.6, while Donald Davidson rounded out the top five with a time of 1:27:42.2.

Clover Royes was the second female to finish (1:32:00.1), while Jamie Akers was third on the female podium (1:38:43.5).

The common complaint among competitors was the steep hill at the end of the bike course. And Clay was quick to agree.

“Oh yeah, it’s a killer hill,” Clay said. “I went and done it a couple times before so I knew what I was expecting, but it’s pretty steep.”

Brian Sather of La Grande Ride said he had been planning the Oregon Trail Triathlon for about a year. He said 21 people completed the course, while two did not finish and two didn’t show.

Sather said he would have liked about 10 more entrants in the race.

But even he was impressed with Clay’s victory.

“Dominic won, that’s really cool,” Sather said. “Mike is fast.”

Upcoming triathlons include the Onion Man Triathlon Saturday in Walla Walla, Wash., and the 3 Rivers Race June 1 in La Grande.

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