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by Sharon Robb

August 13, 2002

College swimmer to triathlete

Linda Neary, a physical therapist from North Palm Beach, competed in her first triathlon in 1994 on a "$200 garbage bike." A self-admitted "dork," Neary wasn't a natural by any means. It took her a while to get good. A top college swimmer at Arizona, she needed time to learn about the sport's intricacies: training, race strategy and nutrition.

"You have to make mistakes to learn from stuff like stepping on your sun glasses in the transition area and falling off your bike," Neary said. "I know I have made every mistake there is to make in the sport, but it's all been fun along the way."

Neary returns as three-time defending women's champion in the Coca-Cola Classic Triathlon Series. It is the flagship event of the Publix Family Fitness Weekend season opener at Crandon Park this weekend.

Her closest rivals are expected to be Racheal Wood of Deerfield Beach and Ashley Carusone of High Springs.

The men's field is one of the most competitive ever assembled, with defending series champion John Reback, brothers David and Bill Picciano, Marty Gaal and Danny Domingo.

Entering its 17th season, Boca Raton-based Exclusive Sports Marketing has moved four of its bigger triathlons on its nine-race series to Saturdays to enable families, friends and athletes "to celebrate and socialize more afterward," ESM President and CEO Steve Tebon said.

"If I had to pick a theme for this year, it would be celebration," Tebon said.

Race officials are looking for a record crowd and may get it, despite a full schedule of participant sports in South Florida. Crandon Park is one of the most popular courses in the state. It features the Rickenbacker Causeway as part of the 10-mile bike course.

"We listened to what the athletes wanted," said Randy White, event director for ESM. "It was great to get that kind of feedback during the races and offseason."

ESM has upgraded several facets of its series. Local artist Doug Bolly was hired to design a collector series of race T-shirts for each sport. His artwork features dolphins, palm trees and other South Florida scenes.

Kevin Clark and Joseph Hendrix produced a 92-page Inside Exclusive program.

The series, the largest of its kind in the Southeast, features runs, in-line skating, open-water swims and adult/kids triathlons and duathlons.

ESM is bringing in "The Great Scotts"—Scott Molina, Scott Tinley and Dave Scott to compete at the June 7-9 Tampa/Davis Island event. It is the first time three of the sport's top athletes have come together for an ESM event.

South Beach has been added to the schedule for the Sept. 20-22 weekend.

Club Med Florida at Sandpiper in Port St. Lucie returns as host site for the Oct. 4-6 championship weekend.

Copyright © 2002, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

April 18, 2002