Two local organizations hope to take over endurance race events that have for decades been staged by the Columbia Triathlon Association, a nonprofit that has been working to keep itself afloat amid financial difficulties.
The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults and Rip It Events have asked Howard County for permits for events this year, including Iron Girl Columbia, a swim, bike and run that draws about 2,000 athletes to a park in Ellicott City, according to the president of the cancer fund and a county spokeswoman.
"This is too important to our organization to not do something," said Brock Yetso, president and CEO of the nonprofit cancer fund that has worked with the 30-year-old Columbia Triathlon Association, or TriColumbia, on these events for about 10 years. "We couldn't sit on the sidelines."
Yetso said his organization put in applications for five Howard County events — held from April through August — after hearing that TriColumbia was having financial problems. Founded in 1997, the Ulman fund has been staging its own triathlon in Howard County since 2010, and other athletic events since 1998.
Danny Serpico, co-owner of Rip It Events, a company that has also staged endurance events in Howard County, could not be reached for comment Friday. A county spokeswoman confirmed Rip It has applied for permission to stage at least some of the events, held in Centennial Park and in Columbia Town Center.
Yetso said Friday he talked earlier this week with Todd Jennings, chairman of TriColumbia's board of directors and with Steve Meckfessel, of the World Triathlon Corporation, after seeing a report on the website, slowtwitch.com, that claimed WTC was contemplating taking over TriColumbia events.
A spokesman for the World Triathlon Corporation, a for-profit company that stages the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii, declined to comment. Jennings did not returned numerous phone calls.
Clear information has been difficult to come by since TriColumbia stopped taking athlete registrations for its events and shut down most functions of its website a couple weeks ago. Jennings said last week all events scheduled by TriColumbia in 2014 would go as planned, even as the board drafted a strategy to avert a potential cash shortfall this year.
Yetso said he told both Jennings and Meckfessel about his organization's interest in the Howard County events, which make up five of the nine TriColumbia events scheduled for 2014. The others are held in Cambridge and in Rocky Gap State Park.
On Thursday, the Ulman Cancer Fund posted an open letter on its website announcing its aspiration to "acquire and produce all of TriColumbia's Howard County events…we hope TriColumbia will consider us as a serious option as they explore potential partners to keep their successful events alive for years to come."
He said his organization decided to post the open letter because "we wanted to be as transparent as possible."