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Morrison achieves world ranking

(Sept. 3, 1998)   —   When it comes to the grueling triathlon, a race that involves swimming, cycling and running, Robert Morrison, an East Carolina University chemistry professor, may feel a little like the king of the world.

In the International Triathlon Union World Championship last weekend in Lausanne, Switzerland, Dr. Morrison finished in 17th place in the 60 to 64 year-old age bracket. It was his first international triathlon meet after nearly 18 years of state, regional and national competitions. "I'm proud of it," said the soft-spoken professor, who noted that he qualified for the world's event by being one of the top 12 finishers in his age bracket at the national triathlon meet last June in Florida.

A total of 220 athletes from the United States were among the nearly 2,000 athletes that took part in the international competition. There were 59 countries represented. "The triathlon is one of the best organized sports in respect to staging world class meets for contenders in different age groups," said Morrison. He said the Swiss did an excellent job with their program and spent about $3 million on the event.

The competition began with a 1,500 meters swim race. Once out of the water, they hopped on their bicycles for a 40 kilometer run across hilly and winding roads. The final stretch of the event was a road race on foot over a 10 kilometer course. Not all of the competitors have the endurance to complete the three legs of the race and this, according to Morrison, explains why the triathlon begins in the water, rather than ending there. One contender among the field of 39 in Morrison's age bracket at the World Championships failed to finish.

To train for the triathlon, Morrison swims a couple of times a week at the Student Recreation Center and participates in a master swim group at the Greenville Aquatics Center. He said his speed in the water is his weakness. He is also a member of the East Carolina Velo Club where he races bikes. His strongest area in a race is running because he has a background as a marathon runner. He still competes in an occasional marathon including one that is held each year in Lincoln, Neb.

The professor is a 28-year veteran of the chemistry department. He said he got interested in the triathlon when a friend convinced him to take part in a race in Wilmington in 1980. He said he enjoyed the sport from the start and now participate in two to three meets annually. He is especially fond of the national events because they draw more competitors in his age group than do the local and state races.


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