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Husband, wife win Capital City Challenge triathlon

By Megan Workman
Kenny Kemp
Capital City Challenge competitors make a quick landing on the Kanawha River before running to their bikes to complete the last leg of Saturday's endurance race.
Kenny Kemp
Winner Kevin Fletcher of Elkview bunny hops over the finish line in Saturday's Capital City Challenge.
Kenny Kemp
Winner Kevin Fletcher grabs some water and he waits for his wife, Sarah, to cross the finish line.
CHARLESTON , W.Va. -- Kevin and Sarah Fletcher are not only husband and wife, they are also first-place winners in Saturday's Capital City Challenge triathlon in Charleston.Sarah Fletcher signed up for the race -- a 25-mile event that includes a 4.2-mile run, a 4.2-mile paddle on the Kanawha River and a 16.8-mile bike ride on Kanawha Boulevard -- weeks ago, and didn't sign her husband up for the triathlon until Friday.Kevin Fletcher placed first overall in the race, finishing in 1 hour, 53 minutes. Sarah Fletcher finished first in the women's solo category in 2 hours, 7 minutes."I feel good. It was a great day. All I have to do is finish ahead of her," he said with a laugh.Kevin Fletcher's finish time set a new course record, finishing six minutes ahead of last year's winner. He's happy with his time but race director Steve Hewitt was even more impressed."We thought [last year's finish time] was unbelievable," Hewitt said. "Wow. That's extremely impressive."The Fletchers compete in triathlons throughout the summer, Sarah Fletcher said, but the downtown location for the Capital City Challenge makes it a unique event for the Elkview couple."We try to support local races," Kevin Fletcher said. "It's nice to have something close to home." Racers took off early Saturday from Magic Island with a crisp fall chill in the area, the perfect day for running, kayaking and riding, said Charleston competitor Bill Schultz.Nearly130 people signed up to participate, more than double last year's number of competitors, said Becky Hewitt, a Capital City Challenge organizer."We're ecstatic," Hewitt said of the participation increase.Four group categories compete in the race -- male, female, coed and family teams. The event welcomes all ages and skill levels. The youngest person to participate was a 15-year-old while the oldest challengers were in their mid-60s. Competitors came from Maryland, Virginia, Ohio and the Mountain State to run, row and ride."This is the only race you do and everyone is smiling," said Steve Hewitt. "Usually, people are intense, but not in this course -- and that's what we wanted to [accomplish]."
The event raised more than $8,000 Saturday from participating challengers, up from the $5,000 the even raised last year. The money will be donated to the Southern West Virginia Make-A-Wish Foundation."That's definitely good because there's a need for the money," said Maris Pedro, regional manager for Southern West Virginia Make-A-Wish.
Last year, the Capital City Challenge's donations granted three wishes for children with life-threatening medical conditions, Pedro said. Even though the cost of granting a child's wish has increased in the past year, she said, the organization is on track to grant up to five wishes.Star USA Federal Credit Union and Triana Energy sponsored the event for the second consecutive year. Sixty-five volunteers also helped make the triathlon possible, including family members and friends of those in the race."We're very thankful for the sponsors," Pedro said.Jackie Harris, policy director at the Secretary of State's Office, sat on a Kanawha Boulevard curb as she waited for her two friends to complete the competition. A spectator for moral support, Harris anticipated the end of their race."I'm keeping the camera on," Harris said, her iPhone in hand ready to take a picture of her friends passing over the finish line.Organizers already are preparing for next year's event, Steve Hewitt said.
"We're growing this [competition]," he said. "We see the potential of 500 people [participating]."After the competitors passed the finish line, they reunited with family and friends as live music played during the post-race picnic at Magic Island.Race participant Shultz said he had a great time and especially liked the kayaking portion of the race since it's the event he partakes in the least, but enjoys. He will be back next year, he said."Definitely. It's always on my bucket list."Reach Megan Workman at megan.workman@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.
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