CLERMONT – Although based in Boston, home to the world famous Boston Red Sox, Bill Burnett thinks he’s found a city that has the ability to excel as a hub for sports. It’s called Clermont.
“Without a doubt, absolutely,” Burnett said. “We want to be a part of this whole venture of making Clermont a hub for this type of athletic event.”
If Central Floridians are more likely to think of Clermont as a bedroom community for people who commute into Orlando, Burnett said Clermont actually has two great strengthens that enable the city to build a reputation for sports activities. One is the National Training Center, a 300-acre sports, health, fitness and education campus in Clermont that unites sports and athletic facilities with a hospital, medical office buildings, community college and four-year University.
The other is Lake Louisa State Park, which provides opportunities for fishing, canoeing and kayaking, and has a full-facility 60-site campground and 20 furnished cabins for rent.
Both entities come together this weekend, during the 2nd Annual Clermont Draft Legal Challenge, which is bringing world class triathletes to Lake County on Saturday, March 3. From 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Lake County is hosting the Draft Legal Challenge at Lake Louisa State Park, located at 7305 U.S. 27 in South Lake County just outside the Clermont city limits.
Triathletes representing 28 states and more than a dozen different countries will compete for athletic supremacy in what Burnett, the assistant race director, said would likely be a tough, grueling triathlon.
“Last year was our first year, and it was a great year, and now we’re back,” said Burnett.
“We have seven different events throughout the day.”
Burnett is the co-founder and force behind the Commonwealth Triathlon Series, a Boston-based triathlon series operated by his company, Streamline Events. Burnett is a USA Triathlon Certified Race Director and former All-American swimmer who routinely competes with the Cambridge Masters Swim Club at Harvard University.
The Clermont race is expected to attract an abundance of visitors and spectators, both locally and even globally, since it already consists of numerous nationally known competitors. The men’s group includes 2008 Olympian and Clermont resident Jarrod Shoemaker, as well as two time International Triathlon Union World Cup winner Matt Chrabot.
The women’s field features of 2012 U.S. Olympian Gwen Jorgensen, and other female contestants include Jess Harrison (France), Ai Ueda (Japan) and Lake County residents Sarah Haskins, Sara McLarty, and Alicia Kaye.
There will also be an age group draft legal race, a Youth F1 race and a standard age group sprint race. Contestants will compete for the USA Triathlon Elite credentials. The top junior finishers will earn an opportunity to compete in the 2012 Triathlon Youth Elite and Junior Elite National Championships later this year.
It’s the kind of event that lifts the spirits of the county’s economic development team.
“We are excited to support the 2nd Annual Clermont Draft Legal Challenge,” said Scott Blankenship, Lake County’s director of economic development and tourism. “This event will attract world class athletes from around the world, and we look forward to this event getting bigger each year.”
Burnett said the combination of the National Training Center and Lake Louisa has been a strong draw for athletes who want to participate on Saturday.
“It’s been great,” Burnett said. “The event was started by Jarrod Shoemaker, who was the 2008 Olympian for us in the states. He lives in Clermont and he always had a vision to bring an international event into Clermont. I’m on board because I’ve worked with him on a number of occasions, and we want to make it really easy for people to come in for this event. Our schedule is online, and food is being served. We have catering coming in. We’ve got good food, salad and pasta, and so far the numbers are staggering. This year, the women’s field has tripled from what it was last year. It’s really neat to see the growth in this and see people from all over the world come to Clermont for this.”
So far, he said, 15 different countries are participating, and he expects Lake Louisa will provide the ideal location for the races.
“There’s no question about it,” he said. “Lake Louisa has been awesome. It’s a wonderful venue. It’s very simple to put on a race there in the park. This has been so successful that Jarrod and I are putting on a similar race in New Jersey in June.”
He added that The National Training Center is “a wonderful facility. They’re opening their doors to all athletes to come in, and it’s one of the best facilities I’ve seen in the country.”
For more information about the 2nd Annual Clermont Draft Legal Challenge, log on to www.draftlegalchallenge.com.
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