NEWS: Mighty Moraine Man triathlon set

By John Enrietto 

Eagle Sports Editor 

Friday, September 13, 2013

MUDDY CREEK TWP — Joella Baker has always believed a triathlon and Moraine State Park would be a good fit. 

The park staff and Butler County Tourism and Convention Bureau agreed — and the Mighty Moraine Man Triathlon Festival is born. 

The event — put together by Baker’s Get Fit Families organization — takes place at 7 a.m. Sept. 21 on Moraine’s North Shore. 

“I’ve had the idea of starting a triathlon at Moraine for a couple of years now,” said race director Baker, a Harmony resident. “I talked to some bigger companies about organizing one and nothing ever came of it. 

“I spoke with the Butler County tourism bureau a year ago and they loved the idea. We got it rolling from there.” 
The triathlon will be the first Half-Ironman event — 1.2 mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1 mile run — ever held in Western Pennsylvania. The race is designed for beginners through elite runners. 

Baker, a 1988 Quigley Catholic graduate diagnosed with the auto-immune disease Lupus nine years ago, said seven athletes with either multiple sclerosis or Lupus will be competing in the triathlon. 

“That’s going to be a first,” she said proudly. “Part of the message of this event is that people with auto-immune diseases can participate in physical activities like this. 

“When I was first diagnosed, I gained 30 or 40 pounds with the medication I was on and I couldn’t live like that. It was rough, but I got back into running, built my strength back up and lost the weight.” 

Baker went on to compete in the 2002 Pittsburgh Marathon and has done nine other marathons and eight Half-Ironman’s since. 

Now a certified personal trainer through the International Sports Sciences Association, Baker formed Get Fit Families to show families how to get their lives back on track through exercise and nutrition. 

“Some of the families I’m working with are doing this triathlon,” she said. 

There are 200 triathletes registered thus far, coming from eight states and as far away as California. Moraine State Park has made a five-year commitment to the event. 

“Joella has done events out here before,” assistant park manager Jake Weiland said. “She just finished doing a youth triathlon for the second year and she’s had open swims for kids and families. 

“Her activities promote the park and use of resources here we’ve been lacking in promotion. She’s filling a niche for us.” 

Baker said the triathlon could grow to 800 to 1,000 participants within three or four years. Weiland agreed. 

“A lot of folks will view the first one, see how it’s run, then they’ll join in next year or the year after,” Weiland said. 
Baker described triathlons as “a growing, booming sport that more and more people are beginning to enjoy.”

“Moraine State Park is tailor-made for this. It’s a natural,” she enthused. 

The Mighty Moraine Man Triathlon Festival is not tied to any series and does not have any strong corporate backing. That’s all by design, Baker said. 

“We wanted to keep it a cost-effective race for the local athlete,” she said. “I expect this to grow and grow and grow.” 

Registration for the event is open through Sept. 20. Volunteers are being sought as well. Any interested church groups, youth groups or individuals may contact Baker at

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