Members of Team Drew gathered at the TRI Allegan triathlon to honor the memory and legacy of the late Drew Verhoeven, who had participated in the four previous TRI Allegan events. (Photo provided)Ellory Clason competes in the 5k for Team Drew. (Photo by Jason Wesseldyk)Nathan Smith completes the bike portion of the TRI Allegan triathlon as part of Team Drew. (Photo by Jason Wesseldyk)

‘Team Drew’ honors Verhoeven at TRI Allegan triathlon

Jason Wesseldyk

Drew Verhoeven had become a fixture at the TRI Allegan sprint triathlon in recent years.
Verhoeven, who had muscular dystrophy, competed in the event for the first time as part of a chariot team in 2015 and had been back each of the following three years.
And while Verhoeven passed away last December, his presence—and spirit—was still felt in a big way at this year’s triathlon on Tuesday, July 16.
Wearing blue T-shirts—blue was Verhoeven’s favorite color—that said “TEAM DREW” across the front, two three-person teams completed the 500-meter swim, 14-mile bike and 5k run in Verhoeven’s memory.
First Baptist Church of Allegan pastor Nathan Smith was part of one of those teams, completing the biking portion of the race. It was Smith who teamed with Verhoeven for all three stages of the race in 2015, pulling Verhoeven in an inflatable kayak for the swim and in a cart for the bike before pushing him in the cart for the run.
“Drew and I did several races together over the past four years, but we rarely raced alone,” Smith said. “We were often blessed with relay team members and other supporters. After Drew passed, we decided to remember him by doing a race in his memory.
“The Allegan TRI seemed like the logical race choice since it was always his favorite race venue.”
TRI Allegan director Joe Cantwell was pleased that TRI Allegan could be part of the continued healing process for VerHoeven’s family and friends.
“It was moving to see all the support from and for Team Drew,” Cantwell said. “I’m glad TRI Allegan was able to provide a venue that Drew loved and then to able to provide an opportunity for Team Drew to honor him.
“It’s hard to put it into words, but Nate and his group are doing great things to honor Drew’s memory.”
Smith was part of a team along with son Titus Smith (swim) and Ellory Clason (run). The other Team Drew squad consisted of Nate Clason (swim), Erin Clason (bike) and Ben Clason (run).
The swimmers pulled kayaks with Drew’s picture in them, while the bikers pulled carts with Drew’s picture in them and the runners pushed those same carts.
In addition to the six members of Team Drew that participated in the race, many other family members—including parents Keith and Becky—and friends were out to show their support for Drew and to remember his fighting spirit.
“We also wanted to honor him by helping raise funds for the Overcoming All Oddsscholarship fund that was set up by Keith and Becky in Drew’s name,” Smith said.
“Southwick’s Guns and Ammo and Michfab Fabrication Equipment bought the initial wave of Team Drew shirts so that every penny paid for the shirts could go to the scholarship fund. Ride Of Their Lives paid for our race entries so we could make additional donations to the scholarship fund.”
Smith’s team finished the race with a time of 1:21.28. The other comprised of the three Clasons finished at 1:16.38.
“We are deeply thankful for great community support from the race director and volunteers, the Rotary Club, the high school and all the supporters from First Baptist Church,” Smith said. “This is a great community in which to live and race.”
As for the triathlon itself, Scott Johnson was the overall winner with a time of 1:00.52. Danielle Nye was the overall women’s winner at 1:14.33.
Doug Muenzer won the duathlon portion of the event (two-mile run, 14-mile bike and 5k run) at 1:18.41, followed by son Vance Muenzer at 1:19.27.
“This year—as always—I was very impressed with the response from the community, participating athletes, Allegan’s coaches and the high school athletes that come out to volunteer for the race,” Cantwell said. “We had student-athletes from volleyball, soccer, baseball, cheerleading, swimming, basketball and football helping with setup, cleanup and athlete support.
“We put out a request to a few friends for volunteers to help with registration and we had more people than we could use show up. The athletes participating had such great attitudes. They encouraged each other and everyone finished on a hot night. It’s all very impressive.”
This year’s event featured a total of 135 participants, which is similar to recent years.
“The main word I heard over and over was fun,” Cantwell said. “It’s a weeknight race, so we try to keep it somewhat low key and relaxed. We want everyone to come out have a good time and finish.
“I would like to give a big thank you to the student athletes and the small group of people who work hard to make TRI Allegan happen every year. Norm Gant, Jason and Lindsay Bannatyne, Marj Cantwell and Lisa DeKryger along with some other friends all take on tasks every year to make sure the TRI goes as smoothly as possible.”
As always, the money raised goes to the Allegan Sports Boosters.
And while nothing is finalized yet, Cantwell is expecting next year’s race to have a special feel to it.
“Next year will be the 10-year anniversary for TRI Allegan, so we will look at doing something to commemorate that,” he said.


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