Perhaps one of the toughest parts of a triathlon for many people is the swimming portion.

While only 500-meters in length, it is a section that can make or break a good time from a bad one.

Fortunately for York Country Day alum Shannon Mulcahy, swimming has always been one area where she excels. She regularly swam the 500 free for the York YMCA team while in high school. That gave the 20-year-old a big head start as she participated in Sunday's York YWCA Ladies Sprint Triathlon at York College.

Seeded second with her pre-qualified swim time, Mulcahy was the first triathlete to cross the finish line on the day. Due to the staggered start times as well as the addition of a first-ever duathlon, times for the competitors where not immediately available at the finish line.

While Mulcahy had no idea just how well she had done, she was nevertheless pleased.

"I think I did pretty well today," Mulcahy said. "I'm happy with it."

While a standout swimmer in high school, Mulcahy actually had to quit competing due to a nerve injury in her neck about two years ago. That led to her taking up running to stay in shape before she added biking to her training regiment thereafter.

Sunday, however, was the first time Mulcahy competed in the Y-Tri, as it is commonly referred to.

"I started training about four weeks ago," she said. "I did a spring half-marathon in April down in (Washington) D.C. But this was pretty challenging."


For the most part, the overcast skies helped keep the conditions cool for the 15-mile bike and 3.1 running portions of the event. That was something that all competitors came to appreciate.

"For me I thought the weather conditions were good," said Joy Phelan, a two-time winner of the event (2006, 2011). "There was a little wind and it was overcast. So it was pretty good weather."

Phelan had a goal of bettering her time on the bike this year. Suffering from a couple of chronic foot injuries over the recent past, the Hempfield High School graduate wanted to gain a time cushion before the event-ending run.

"I really tried to push it hard on the bike today," she said. "I haven't been able to do any run training because I've had some foot injuries, so I knew I was going to be suffering on the run."

Phelan, who was the fifth across the finish line, didn't keep track of her time during the event. Still she was also happy with her performance.

"I didn't wear a watch," she said. "I tried not to pay attention to that."

With all the different aspects of the ladies-only event -- triathlon, duathlon, and team relays -- going on at once, both Phelan and Mulcahy were impressed with how smooth the event ran.

"This was very well-organized," Mulcahy said. "I know it's challenging to organize an event like this. There's a lot that could go wrong and I don't think anything did."

Phelan, who took part in a similar triathlon in Mount Gretna last month, agreed with Mulcahy.

"This was nice," she said. "I agree. This was very well-run."

-- Ryan Vandersloot can be reached at