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Racing for a cause: Triathalon delivers encouragement for Grace, dollars for blood cancer research

Grace and her mom, Sue Goblirsch, kept vigil in the isolated "reviewing stand" at Saturday's triathalon event. Submitted photo.

More than 150 athletes -- friends, family and well-wishers -- participated Saturday in a triathalon, raising $8,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and sending a dramatic message of support to a 20-year-old River Falls woman awaiting a bone-marrow transplant.

"TRI4Grace" was the brainstorm of Lynn Huiskamp, River Falls High School girls swim coach who mentored Grace Goblirsch for many years before Grace graduated and moved on to become a member of the Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, Minn., swim team.

It was symptoms of increased fatigue at a swim practice in mid-December that prompted a doctor's visit and her subsequent diagnosis of acute myelogenous leukemia.

She's since endured an extended hospitalization and several cycles of chemotherapy in an effort to prepare her body for a bone marrow transplant at the University of Minnesota. She was to undergo additional medical tests this week, according to her Caring Bridge web site.

Huiskamp declared in an e-mail message to the Journal Monday it was a "spectacular turnout and weather!

"Over the past month and a half, I amassed names and emails of people wanting to volunteer. They were amazing! We had 70 people helping in every way from sorting and stuffing registration packets, designing signs, to having small armies stationed on every corner of the run route and every corner and pothole on the bike route.

Following a 500-yard swim in the River Falls High School pool, several waves of participants sprinted outdoors to bicycles for a 10-mile loop ride that carried them along Cemetery Road, Hwy. 29 and Happy Valley Road before returning to the school for a two-mile run through surrounding neighborhoods.

Saturday's sunshine and long-awaited warmth contributed to a carnival atmosphere outside the school's aquatic center where Goblirsch, her mother and grandmother stood in a roped-off area, greeting participants and witnessing the action. Because of her suppressed immune system, Goblirsh is trying to avoid unnecessary exposure to germs and infection.

"I heard from seasoned triathletes who said they hadn't been to a better run Triathlon," wrote Huiskamp. "Of course, we had the best reason for that to happen.

"So many families wanted to show their support to Grace and the whole family. Even though I didn't know everyone, and didn't even meet every single volunteer, it felt like the River Falls Community was shining on all of us.

"It feels so great to be a part of that. We had so many families, high school kids and alums, and relatives and friends all gather to compete," she said.

"On the business end, we had a huge success with over $8,000 raised for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I was asked many times if I'd put on a Triathlon again," said Huiskamp. "I think when Grace is back in action, I could be persuaded pretty easily."