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Endurance team brings together local athletes
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Jack Haire is the manager and member of a recently-formed local Mansfield-Greyhound endurance team. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

When Jack Haire was first approached by president Mike Mansfield to start a new endurance team at Mansfield Oil in Gainesville, he jumped at the opportunity.

“I thought there was nothing like it,” he said. “It was a great way for his staff to feel the excitement, and make the employees very happy to feel like they’re a part of something.”

Mansfield has been involved with triathlons for many years. When he found out that many of his employees shared the same love of endurance sports, he acted, forming a Mansfield Oil endurance team.

“Mansfield Oil has numerous employees that enjoy endurance sports. Personally, I have been involved in triathlons for many years. The cross training has helped me reduce stress maintain and even lose weight. I enjoy the challenge of triathlon,” Mansfield said via email. “The endurance team was formed to help our staff continue their passion for endurance sports by providing some financial assistance and to provide a team support concept that includes group training and coaching.”

That team is already enjoying success.

In just four months the team has grown to include 12 members, a partnership with Greyhound Bus and race success, including a first-place finish from team member Aaron Leach, who won the Beast of the East Triathlon on May 20 in Hayesville, N.C.

And Mansfield, along with Haire, the team’s manager and advisor as well as an assistant coach with the Brenau swim team, sees more growth in the future.

“(Mansfield’s) vision for the team is to bring on some other community athletes looking for an opportunity to compete,” Haire said. “With his financial support, and Greyhound’s, and the coaching, we feel like we can take some of these athletes and take them to the next level.”

Mansfield said he would like to see more of what Leach has already done.

“Our goal in the first year is to have several of our local Gainesville athletes finish in the top 10 of their age groups in Iron Man events, World and National Olympic Triathlon Events, and 10K and Marathon races,” he said. “The team accepts applicants from our local Northeast Georgia area along with employees of Mansfield Oil and Greyhound. We are looking for exceptional age group athletes that are dedicated to their sport. Triathlon is an expensive sport. The Mansfield Oil/ Greyhound Bus Endurance Team provides our community members with financial incentives for podium finishes. We help offset the high cost of entry fees on top of providing race gear and apparel.”

The team members already have a full slate of races to compete in with the racing season already under way. Haire said every racer has at least one key race for the year. Leach is competing in an Iron Man event at Lake Placid, N.Y., in July, and Mansfield will be running the New York City Olympic Distance race, also in July.

The team is also evaluating future members who could grab more podium stops in the future. Haire noted that former local high school runners who have since finished college and want to continue to compete would be a great fit for the team started, and sponsored, by Mansfield.

“We will continue to evaluate new endurance athletes’ talent and accept applications for additional members as we move forward into the 2012-2013 race season,” Mansfield added. “Without financial assistance, many of these local athletes would miss out on accomplishing their goals of competing at a high level.”

Of course, the team is about more than just winning. Haire noted the benefits for the employers whose employees participate.

“When you’re involved in fitness, you manage your time more easily, and it’s good for stress reduction,” Haire said. “That could help any employer, as well as the moral support. We are out there to support and cheer on members at races.”

Haire added that many of the members will train on their own time, but that the whole group tries to get together at least once a month for monthly clinics.

The group includes a variety of athletes, including triathletes (Haire, Leach and Mansfield included), along with a cyclist from Greyhound and a few runners.

As a swim coach, Haire is able to help with an area of weakness for many of the triathletes, who aren’t as experienced swimming as running and cycling.

In the last four months Mansfield’s initial idea has become a reality, and Haire is happy to be a part of making it happen.

“It’s been more work than I thought initially,” he said. “But it’s been a lot of fun.”

The work to continue the new teams’ rise, however, is far from over.

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