Shelburne Falls’ Kristian Whitsett wins 2024 Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon (PHOTOS)

A team member of Clayton’s Way competes in the adventure running portion of the Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon at Berkshire East on Saturday.

A team member of Clayton’s Way competes in the adventure running portion of the Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon at Berkshire East on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/THOMAS JOHNSTON

Alex Sutliff competes in the adventure running portion of the Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon at Berkshire East on Saturday.

Alex Sutliff competes in the adventure running portion of the Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon at Berkshire East on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/THOMAS JOHNSTON

Competitors in the Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon make the climb up the mountain for the ski portion of the race on Saturday at Berkshire East.

Competitors in the Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon make the climb up the mountain for the ski portion of the race on Saturday at Berkshire East. STAFF PHOTO/THOMAS JOHNSTON

Competitors in the Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon head into the transition area following the adventure run at Berkshire East on Saturday.

Competitors in the Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon head into the transition area following the adventure run at Berkshire East on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/THOMAS JOHNSTON

Kristian Whitsett makes his way down the mountain during the Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon at Berkshire East on Saturday. Whitsett placed first overall at the race.

Kristian Whitsett makes his way down the mountain during the Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon at Berkshire East on Saturday. Whitsett placed first overall at the race. STAFF PHOTO/THOMAS JOHNSTON

Competitors make their way up the mountain for the ski portion of the Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon at Berkshire East on Saturday.

Competitors make their way up the mountain for the ski portion of the Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon at Berkshire East on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/THOMAS JOHNSTON

A team member of Clayton’s Way makes their way down the mountain during the ski portion of the Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon at Berkshire East on Saturday.

A team member of Clayton’s Way makes their way down the mountain during the ski portion of the Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon at Berkshire East on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/THOMAS JOHNSTON

Zach Livingston cheers after completing the ski portion of the Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon at Berkshire East on Saturday.

Zach Livingston cheers after completing the ski portion of the Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon at Berkshire East on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/THOMAS JOHNSTON

A member of Team Slush Puppies Celebrates after finishing the ski portion of the Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon on Saturday at Berkshire East.

A member of Team Slush Puppies Celebrates after finishing the ski portion of the Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon on Saturday at Berkshire East. STAFF PHOTO/THOMAS JOHNSTON

Competitors make their way down the mountain during the Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon at Berkshire East on Saturday.

Competitors make their way down the mountain during the Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon at Berkshire East on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/THOMAS JOHNSTON

A member of Team Slush Puppies heads toward the transition area following the adventure run portion of the Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon at Berkshire East on Saturday.

A member of Team Slush Puppies heads toward the transition area following the adventure run portion of the Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon at Berkshire East on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/THOMAS JOHNSTON

By THOMAS JOHNSTON

Staff Writer

Published: 04-06-2024 7:57 PM

Modified: 04-07-2024 11:24 AM


CHARLEMONT — It was a beautiful day at Berkshire East on Saturday for the 2024 Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon. 

Athletes from all over traveled to Charlemont to compete in the grueling pentathlon, which begins with a 4.3 mile run that starts on pavement through the town of Charlemont, then heads into a mix of woods, roads and trails. The second leg sees athletes compete in an 18-mile bike ride before heading into the water for an almost two mile paddle. 

The fourth leg has competitors go through a 1.75 mile adventure run, which takes place on mixed dirt and pavement. To close out the event, athletes must climb to the top of the mountain before skiing down through gates. Competitors are allowed to compete either by themselves (Bravehearts) or in teams. 

While people came from all over to compete in the annual event, it was Shelburne Falls’ Kristian Whitsett who was the first to cross the finish line. Whitsett won the event in a time of 2 hours, 19 minutes and 38 seconds. 

“It’s an exhausting day,” Whitsett said. “It’s great to win this. They said the water would be low for the river but it wasn’t too bad. I was just able to keep it up throughout.” 

While each leg presents its own unique challenge, it was the climb to the top of the mountain that Whitsett said was the most difficult.

“The hardest part is always the climb,” Whitsett said. “Last year we only had to go halfway up. This year we had to go all the way to the top. That second pitch is just brutal. It’s great coming down on the skis but my quads were burning like crazy coming down. If I tried going too fast I wouldn’t have been able to stop.” 

As a local, Whitsett competes in the pentathlon each year and said it’s a great family event. 

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His kids participated as a team, as it’s become a yearly event for the family. 

“I do this every year,” Whitsett said. “I love the race. My kids are doing it as a team. It’s super fun. It’s a great race. It’s local, there’s so many volunteers involved. It’s a great event.” 

Sunderland’s Lianne McCluskey was the top female finisher, competing the course in a time of 2:59:14. 

It was McCluskey’s first time competing in the pentathlon, which makes the victory all the more impressive. 

“It was always a bucket list item to do this,” McCluskey said. “I never knew I could win it. On the obstacle course I missed one of the logs and had to turn back and get it. I got passed there but I was able to catch up to get first. It was so fun and exciting.” 

While an enjoyable experience, McCluskey noted how the pentathlon will zap your energy by the end. 

She was most worried about the cycling portion, but made sure to train hard beforehand to ensure she’d be able to complete it and still have the energy necessary to finish the ensuing three legs of the race. 

“My legs are shot,” McCluskey said. “Coming down the last part of the run my legs were seizing. I had to keep telling myself I only had a little more to go. I feel like I didn’t train the way I should have. I thought the hardest leg would be the bike because it was the longest. I biked a lot, ran a lot and did some of the other stuff. I work at Zoar Outdoor so I know how to kayak. Last week I did the bike ride to make sure I could do it. The hills are crazy.” 

McCluskey said she will definitely be back next year to defend her crown. She noted the thing she enjoyed most was getting to meet so many people that she was competing against. 

“I’m definitely going to do this again,” she said. “The community here is one of a kind. I’ve gotten to know a lot of people here in such a short amount of time. Everybody is enjoyable and fun to be around. It’s so rewarding. Just finishing is a big deal.” 

Savoy’s Alex Sutliff was the second Braveheart to finish (2:29:05), followed by Arlington’s Jason Linker in third (2:32:05). Gill’s Zane Sylvester placed fourth (2:33:49) while Shelburne’s Zach Livingston earned fifth (2:38:04). 

Like McCluskey, it was Livingston’s first time competing in the pentathlon. He said he enjoyed it and got to test himself in a few events he wasn’t used to doing. 

“It was difficult but super fun,” Livingston said. “The run to start sets the tone because you’re going 1,000 feet up in elevation. A lot of it is on logging hill and you’re going down mud and snow packs on the way down. I was nervous going into the kayak because I’ve only been in one a couple times and while those aren’t rapids, it felt like rapids to me. I just tried to follow the line of the person in front of me. It was good until the end when I fell in the water. When I got up, I fell in again. The rest of the competition was certainly wet.” 

While competing as a Braveheart, Livingston’s run to open the race also served as the running portion for his team, Floodwater Brewing Company. 

Floodwater sponsored the race, and with Livingston, who owns the brewery, competing, it showed the community feel the race has. 

“I hope everyone on the team does it again next year and we can turn it into an annual event,” Livingston said. “[Race director John Ferris] did a great job of giving our team a free entry for the sponsorship. They like it when the sponsors participate because it adds to the community feel. This organization does a lot of good stuff. 

“These type of events have the competitive aspect but it’s a lot of people just cheering everyone on,” Livingston added. “You just feel great finishing. Maybe you don’t do as well as you wanted or you do better than you wanted. I didn’t know what to expect but I definitely had a lot of fun.” 

Older Friend’s Farm — comprised of Wesley Dancause, Justin Lively, Jeff Gang, Dusty Kirby and Steve Power — was the first team to finish the race, doing so in a time of 2:25:16. Adventure East — made up of Brad Walker, Brian Pearson, Garth Shaneyfelt, Sean Condon and Trevor Brightman — earned second (2:31:12) while the two-person team called Clayton’s Way, made up of Matt Clayton and Taylor Carlino, were the third team and first two-person crew to finish (2:32:34).