Columbus native Simmons wins Possum Town Triathlon


By David Miller, Special to The Dispatch



Jimmy Simmons can add the Possum Town Triathlon to the top of his personal list of competitive performances. 


Simmons, a Columbus native who resides in Atlanta, won the fourth-annual race Saturday with a time of 1 hour, 14 minutes, 22 seconds. Simmons made the top 15 last year and said he improved his time and splits from last year's race. 


"I got two little boys at home, so I have to wake up pretty early to run," Simmons said. "When you're out on the course, you're thinking about all of those hours of sleep missed, it kind of pushes and drives you." 


Simmons, who ran at Columbus High School, said his highlight of the 2015 calendar year had been his performance at the Gulf Coast Triathlon in Panama City, Florida, where he finished 16th and clocked a sub-90 minute half-marathon. 


"I usually struggle to do that in a normal race, much less a triathlon," said Simmons, who graduated from CHS in 2003. 


Simmons said he usually competes in events around the Atlanta area, which have more hills than the Columbus course, which was held at Columbus Lake. The running and biking portions of the race were held on Wilkins-Wise Road and adjacent roads. Competitors started with a 600-yard swim at the boat dock at Columbus Lake. 


"This was a great swim," Simmons said. "The water was real calm. The roads were really flat and real fast for both the run and ride. I know these guys by name from last year when I ran it, but I don't race against these particular guys a lot. But we had a good pack going at the front of the bike. We got some good speed going. It was a lot of fun." 


Simmons, already a strong runner, said he has improved his swimming. Although he isn't as strong in biking, he said a new arrow helmet, a longer, aerodynamic design that costs considerably more than typical helmets, helped him. 


"I got it earlier this year for Father's Day," Simmons said.  


Tyson Pompelia, of Meridian, took second with a time of 1:14.32. Aaron Ford, of Saltillo, finished third at 1:15.14. He was initially declared the winner of the overall male division and had the fastest time of all competitors. But Ford was later assessed a two-minute penalty for drafting during the biking portion, which is illegal, per triathlon rules. Riders are required to keep a set distance between themselves and riders ahead of them, and riders had a set time frame to pass when in position. 


The win would have marked the first of Ford's competitive career. Saturday marked the first time he'd competed at the Possum Town Triathlon. Ford is the race director of the King of the Hill Triathlon in Tupelo. 


Mary Robinson, of Jackson, won the overall female division with a 1:23.19 clip. She edged Pam Cox, of Madison, by eight seconds. Brandy Maulden, of Wiggins, finished third (1:30.11). 


Race director Brad Atkins said the event has added 20-plus competitors in each year since it began in 2012. He said more than 190 people competed Saturday. 


"It's a big endeavor," Atkins said. "When we started this, my wife and I (Melissa), we wanted to see a good community event, an endurance event to get people active and moving, something we felt Columbus needed at the time. It takes a lot of people -- we have 70-80 volunteers. We're almost gonna have to have more volunteers to keep it going. We've had a big show of support from the community." 


Said Simmons, "Thanks to Brad and Melissa. We didn't have half-marathons and triathlons when I grew up. This will be a good experience for kids growing up here."



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