Four members of the Excelsior Springs community took the opportunity to honor a fallen hero last weekend as they participated in the Matt Mason Memorial “Cowboy UP!” Triathlon.
Mason’s family and friends created the triathlon to honor fallen the Navy hero. While fighting for his country aboard the Extortion 17 Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan, enemy fire shot Mason and members of his Navy Seal team down on Aug. 6, 2011.
The triathlon raises money to fund scholarships for local students attending Maple Woods Community College and Northwest Missouri State University, where Mason attended.
Scott Smith said although he never met Mason, he considers it an honor to participate in this race.
“I never knew Matt, but I am proud of what he did for our country,” he said. “My wife, daughter and I have been to Arlington National Cemetery where he is buried and have visited his grave a couple times. The last time I was there, I left my first-place Age Group trophy I received for the 2017 Cowboy Up! Triathlon on his headstone.”
Smith and Stacey Scherer competed in the Olympic distance triathlon. This event consists of a 1,000-meter swim, 18.8-mile bike ride and a 10-kilometer run.
Resident Stephanie Wattenbarger competed in the sprint triathlon, consisting of a 500-meter swim, 11-mile bike ride and a 5-kilometer run.
Two teammates joined Russell Wenz as he competed in the Olympic relay triathlon, biking 18.8 miles.
All four athletes made the community proud by either placing overall or in their respective age groups.
Scherer, a Boston Marathon finisher, raced her way to first place in her age group and a sixth-place overall female finish.
Scherer said her favorite part of taking part in triathlons will always be the running.
“I have always been a runner,” she said. “It has turned into a sport that makes me a better person, sharper at work and you can’t deny the health benefits.”
Describing swimming as her biggest challenge, Scherer said it continues to be a work in progress.
Wattenbarger, also a Boston Marathon finisher, came away with a third-place age group medal. Smith, a veteran triathlete who has completed in 29 to date, swam, biked and ran his way to a first-place age group victory.
Wenz, along with his partners Mitchell Kerr of Lathrop and Jack Merrywell of Gladstone, sped their way to a first-place overall victory in the relay.
Wattenbarger said she chose to participate in the Matt Mason triathlon because of the greatness of the event. She said she also described being active and staying fit as a great way to prevent herself from succumbing to a lot of diseases by being unfit.
“I have lots of running friends who participate, which makes it even better,” Wattenbarger said. “My favorite part of the tri is the biking, mostly because it is the thrill of speed and it’s something I have done since childhood.”