Defending champ goes for fourth straight triathlon title |

Defending champ goes for fourth straight triathlon title

Blame it all on Bonnie.

It’s the fault of Wenn Murphy’s mother. Had she not talked her daughter into trying out the Barbara Schmidt Millar Celebration of Life Triathlon, everyone else would likely have better shot at actually winning the thing these days.

After all, for the past three years, it’s been all Wenn.

And, perhaps to the shagrin of her fellow competitors, she’ll be back out at Cascades Shores Sunday morning to take her shot at a fourth straight victory in the 14th annual event.

It all got started for Murphy four years ago, when she made her Celebration of Life debut by finishing second to three-time winner Michelle Seck.

“My mom had done (the triathlon) in previous years on a team and she talked me into it,” said Wenn, a 27-year-old architect. “She’s a breast cancer survivor and she’s definitely an inspiration.

“She had some lumps removed when I was younger, but I didn’t take it as serious at that age. I just didn’t understand our mortality at the time.”

But when Wenn was working on her undergrad degree, Bonnie was back under the knife again. And this time, her youngest of three children fully understood the reality of the situation.

“It didn’t really hit me until I saw her in bed,” Wenn said. “She was just worn out, affected by the surgery.

“But she definitely had a quick recovery and was back to doing her own thing. She’s just not the type to complain about anything. She’s definitely an inspiration.”

The inspiration for the annual triathlon, of course, was Barbara Schmidt Millar, a breast cancer survivor who later was diagnosed with sarcoma of the brachial plexus.

She died at the age of 42, leaving behind her husband (Charles), her young son (Stewart), her loving family and a devoted group of friends who helped develop not only an annual athletic event, but also a reminder for the commuinity to celebrate life each September.

In 13 years, in Barb’s honor, the community has helped raise more than $320,000 to help local patients pay for breast exams and local students secure college educations.

Not only is Wenn Murphy following in her mother’s footsteps in competing in the triathlon, she’s also joined by her 30-year-old sister, Breen. And if Wenn’s name is not first on the list Sunday, it might be because her big sister took the top spot. Breen finished second last year and fourth overall in 2005.

“I think there’s a fun, sisterly, competitive dynamic,” Wenn said. “If you’re talking about training … If my sister is going to go, then I’m going to go.

“So, it’s a healthy, competitive relationship.”

Both sisters are strong swimmers, having grown up in pools around western Nevada County.

“Swimming was our life, growing up in Nevada County,” Wenn said, who swam with Grass Valley’s Penguins and the Nevada Union High School team. “For most triathletes, their weakest link is the swimming. So I guess that’s my advantage, because I’ve been swimming (competitively) since I was five.”

And, to make matters worse for her opponents, this year is the first she’s had the time to put together a traditional training schedule. Although, she said, she was often on the bike around the Bay Area while attending the California College of the Arts in San Francisco.

Earlier this year, she entered the Wildflower Triathlon near San Luis Obispo and was also ready to compete in the Donner Lake Triathlon, but it was canceled due to heavy smoke from wildfires.

“It was the first time I was dedicated to a schedule, so that was a little bit of a bummer,” she said.

Instead, she will defend her title Sunday and later compete in the Santa Cruz Triathlon.

“I’m just still having fun with it,” she said. “And it’s nice to have time to train.”

But as to defending her crown?

“Actually,” she said, “I’m just waiting for some young hot rocket to sign up and kick my butt.”

14th annual

Barbara Schmidt Millar

Celebration of Life Triathlon

At Cascade Shores, Scotts Flat Lake

Sunday, Sept. 14

Activities begin at 7:30 a.m., with triathlon starting at 9 a.m.

For further information on the Celebration of Life Women’s Triathlon, visit the Web site

Event Expo

10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday

First Timers clinic at 12:30 p.m.

Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital

Outpatient Center

155 Glasson Way, Grass Valley

To contact Sports Editor Brian Hamilton, e-mail or call 477-4240.

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