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Kallal's memory lives on at triathlon

by DUSTIN FILLOY dfilloy@indianagazette.net on June 03, 2014 10:40 AM

Becky Perkovich realized almost immediately after the death of her sister, Jackie Kallal, in 2007 that the former triathlete’s legacy should live on through the event she created a decade earlier, the Yellow Creek Triathlon.

So later that year, Habitat for Humanity of Indiana County agreed to rename the event the Jackie Kallal Triathlon. Last year, Perkovich upped the ante in her role in the annual event and replaced longtime race director Darlene Bracken.

Perkovich will direct the 18th edition of the Jackie Kallal Triathlon, which will be held at 9 a.m., June 14, at Yellow Creek State Park. All proceeds of the race will benefit Habitat for Humanity of Indiana County. The race will consist of a half-mile swim, a 9.5-mile bike race and a 3.5-mile run,

Whether the race draws more than last year’s 94 competitors, Perkovich said she sees no end in sight to the event that continues to keep her sister’s legacy alive.

“As long as I’m around it will continue,” Perkovich said. “It means too much to me and so many other people … way too much.”

Kallal helped launch the Yellow Creek Triathlon in 1997 and directed the event for the next 10 years.

She also acted as a vital catalyst in sprouting several other triathlons in western Pennsylvania, including the annual Crooked Creek Triathlon in Ford City, which Kallal helped organize in 1996.

Perkovich elaborated on the elements of the Jackie Kallal Triathlon that make it so intimate and inspirational for many of its competitors.

“They can do a triathlon anywhere, but the history behind this race and the fact that this was Jackie’s vision makes it a different kind of draw,” she said. “As a helper, I always enjoyed the atmosphere, but I didn’t really feel that energy until I actually did the triathlon. That’s when I felt that energy, and it’s an energy that’s hard to explain. You can feel the unselfishness because you can see so many selfless people who are willing to get up and pay to compete in a race in the name of charity and Jackie’s message, which was to just finish. She always wanted everyone to finish. It was simple, but that was the most important thing to Jackie.”

Kallal left a lasting impression on Mel Woodard, the vice president of Habitat for Humanity of Indiana County.

“She gave her heart out to Habitat for Humanity, and she did the same for several other organizations through triathlons,” Woodard said. “She was just a great promoter who was always very enthusiastic about anything she did. She created our best fund raiser, and the only one we really have. It’s really helped to keep us going for all these years.”

Ohio native John Lowrey has won the Jackie Kallal Triathlon the last two years. Last year, Lowrey finished about three minutes off his mark from 2012, but he still managed to best the second-place finisher, Luke Niezelski, by more than four minutes.

Kallal’s daughters, Amelia Kimmel, 21, and Olivia Kimmel, 19, each competed in the event for the first time last year. The Kimmel sisters joined Kallal’s widower, David Langton, to form Team Jackie.

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