This isn’t “previous” champions or “former winners”….these gentlemen are like ambassadors – once you earn that title, you never lose it.
JP Ratajczak, 2008 and 2013 champion: the only two-time winner, the only one to annouce his wife’s pregnancy during the triathlon, the only racer to ever crash so specatularly on a mountain bike that he broke it into pieces. JP’s success over the years can be attributed to a few things – youth, bribes (he always brings something for the Race Director and The Commissioner, arriving a day early, and actually training hard at something that strategically matters – ok, follow that link and read this if you haven’t, especially if you’re one of the racers. It will make you….well, I am not sure, it just will have an impact). More impressive than JP’s wins has been his commitement to getting the overall trophy to places it was never expected to end up, like on the field at a Columbus Crew game or the Makers Mark distillery. If this triathlon was designed to bring golfers and rock climbers together, JP perfectly captures being neither and still winning.
Steve Otto, 2012 Champion: if JP brings youth and mad skillz, Otto brings aged wisdom and damned-determination. In the triathlon’s fifth year, Otto finally pulled together the right combination of medals and wins and using-his-head-literally to reached the pinnacle of the podium. We previously noted his accomplishments that year, but what has been misunderestimated all these years has been the challenges Otto has overcome nearly every year – rooming with Steve Ball, traveling with Steve Ball, rooming with Steve Ball, being on a basketball team with Steve Ball and Steve Schukraft, rooming with Steve Ball, being over-served by Steve Ball, rooming with Steve Ball….and something else I can’r quite remember….
Danno, 2011 Champion and ELLT Founder: no other racer has been as hobbled by expectations as Danno. He set the mountain biking course every year, including the time trial once we went to that format. In 2008, he set the climbing top-ropes and helped Steve D do the guiding. He sucks at golf and has only recently grown into basketball, which means every year he was racing at a considerable disadvantage. Plus, he was the one who sat on the screened in porch in April 2008 while The Commissioner was away and helped concoct this entire thing. So how did he win in 2011? First, give credit to Ben Moeling. His spider-man climb on the rocks motivated Danno and showed us all that another racer could outclimb even Danno, legitimizing Danno’s efforts. Second, we gave Danno an impossible bar to overcome on the mountain biking time trial – and he scaled it easily. Finally, hoops proved to be the most leveling stage evah, with racers who won no stages prior finding themselves in first, second, or third. Danno picked the perfect year to rise above expectations.
Eric Shimp, 2010 Champion: No one trains harder. JP has mad skillz. Eric Lapham has competitive fire. Chris Roy has knowledge and dedication. Danno has raw strength. And Steve Ball has the mixing talents of the bartender in heaven, but no one trains harder over the 11.85 months between ELLTs than Eric Shimp and in 2010, just the third year we raced and only his second competition, he won, narrowly beating locals Lapham and McParland (I know, you’re thinking, “what the hell? I don’t remember Tom coming in 3rd that year?” You’re forgetting it was his rookie year and he tore it up on the bikes, outpacing everyone except Danno and Chris Roy). A few things no other racer has done: coached another racer on Thursday night on the fine points of setting a pick; finished high and low in golf; and poured martinis close to as good as Steve Ball. He has also set the bar for othe racers – his work ethic has permeated ELLT, making even schlubs like the Race Director actually train every year.
Mark Olson, 2009 Champion, the Grey Ghost