By Sara Hall | NB Indy
A group of Newport Beach women with little to no triathlon experience completed the Pacific Coast Triathlon – and they raised $12,000 for John Wayne Cancer Foundation in the process.
“We did great! We all finished, so I couldn’t be happier,” said Team Taggart and Friends member Shannon Eusey, adding that several team members placed in the Top 10 for their age groups, including herself.
“At the end of the day, no one really cared about their individual times,” said team member Malia Grippo. Tthere was a greater group victory.”
Team Taggart and Friends was named after the street most of them live on, Port Taggart, and is composed of of Newport Beach neighbors and friends. They are a part of Team DUKE , an athletic fundraising program for the Wayne foundation.
Their original goal was to raise $2,000 for the foundation, but they quickly surpassed that target. Most of the donations were from family members of the team and friends who were impressed with what they were trying to do, said Eusey.
Out of the 14 women in the group only Grippo has participated in a triathlon before. For most of the women, it has been a long time since they have done anything similar to what was required of them in the triathlon, Eusey said, which was just one of the obstacles.
“We’re not athletes. It doesn’t come easy,” Grippo said.
Another obstacle was overcoming the fear of the water in the triathlon’s first leg, the ocean swim.
“The ocean is a big deal,” Eusey said. The day of the race, she added, the water was below 60 degrees and there were 5- to 7-foot swells.
A few other fears were getting on a bike for the first time or running for such a long distance, which are the second and third triathlon challenges.
Training started early for the team, and Eusey said she felt prepared for the race.
“We started training in the beginning of summer,” Eusey said. “We trained hard… Several days a week.”
They trained at least four times a week, Grippo said, and the training sessions became more intense as they went along.
“Some of us have done individual sports, but this is not about the individual, it’s more about the group,” she said, “and the accomplishment we felt as a group.”
The idea to compete in the race and raise money and awareness for the cancer foundation came from one of her neighbors, Eusey said. Debbie Logan, said she wanted to run a triathlon to fight cancer in honor of her son, Jarrett, who is a survivor of brain cancer.
“It (makes it) kind of special,” Eusey said, to be doing it for someone they know and love.
A few of the families in the neighborhood have been affected by cancer, Eusey said. In addition to Jarrett Logan, one of the women on the team and another’s husband have all had one form or another and all are now cancer-free, Eusey said.
They also wanted to raise money for a local charity and ended up choosing the John Wayne Cancer Foundation. John Wayne somewhat embodies the grit, strength and courage that is an inspiration to those who are fighting cancer, said Eusey.
The team can make suggestions to help decide where the money they raised gets used, Grippo said. They definitely want some of it to go to a rehabilitation program for young adult survivors, specifically in honor of Jarrett Logan. They also want some of the funds to go to a charity dedicated to lung cancer.
“It was a great experience,” Eusey said, “for a great cause.”
The team dedicated their training and triathlon to the strength and fight of several survivors: Jarrett Logan, Jimmy Gray, Sally Bendetti, Janine Meckler, Patricia Renner, Gail Cohen and Laurie St. Claire. It is also dedicated in honor and loving memory of: Carol Jewell, Kitty Perot, Helen Eisenhardt and Irene Kaizuka.
Team Taggert and Friends include: Eusey, Grippo, Kathy Ursini, Lisa Gray, Sally Bendetti, Cory Muehlhauser, Irene Cortens, Debbie Logan, Kristy Brown, Janine Helman, Elena Barrett, Jackie Colgate, Brenda Colgate and Kelli Hamilton.
“We are a group of friends, mothers, neighbors and family members that want to join together to fight cancer,” the Team Taggart and Friends website states. “Unfortunately we have all seen, and some have felt, cancer. We would like to help see it go away forever.”
Both Eusey and Grippo agree that they would both definitely do it again and both women already have plans for other races. Many members of the group plan on doing a triathlon that is twice the distance of the Pacific Coast race, Grippo said.
Many of the women’s husbands also plan on participating next year. Both women also agreed that they would again raise money for the John Wayne Cancer Foundation.
“The greatest part of it is, we’re not athletes,” Grippo said, “but we did it because we knew what was at stake. It was phenomenal.”