CARTERVILLE -- The death last year of the man behind the annual HerrinFesta triathlon could have scuttled the event for good.
But now John A. Logan College has stepped up and will take it over, starting with the upcoming event on Saturday, May 26.
And what's more, Logan is dedicating this year's triathlon to Dr. Charles Rubright, who started the event 12 years ago and who managed it every year since, until his untimely death last September at age 46.
April Martinez, director of recreation education and outreach programs at Logan's Community Health Education Complex, said the triathlon is now named the JALC Tri-Festa, but otherwise everything about the event will stay the same -- including being held on the Logan campus in Carterville.
Everything, that is, except the presence of Rubright.
"He was well-known and well-liked among the 'tri' community," Martinez said. "He will be greatly missed this year."
A moment of silence in Rubright's honor will occur before the start, and Logan will do "a few special things," as well, Martinez said, including his name on the back of T-shirts.
Rubright's wife, Melissa, said the annual triathlon grew out of her husband's love for sports, and his own personal passion for fitness.
Once fit and a pretty good athlete, Rubright, a chiropractor in Herrin, got somewhat out of shape after their children were born, Melissa said. Then his personal physician coaxed him to the Doc Spackman Memorial Triathlon in Carbondale.
"He was hooked," Melissa said.
Rubright loved triathlons. His running style was a bit hampered because one leg was shorter than the other, creating hip issues, but he could always make up the time in the bicycling segment.
He finished two Ironman triathlons and did many road races of distances up to 100 miles.
He was a strong swimmer, too, who loved sports and fitness, and went out of his way to encourage his patients and friends to exercise.
"He'd go and run with you if you were just getting started, or help you get ready for a 5K," Melissa said. "He inspired a lot of patients to get fit."
With the HerrinFesta triathlon, Rubright organized it from the ground up -- getting the volunteers, talking with the police, working with the HerrinFesta committee for medals and promotions -- and drew about 40 runners the first year. By 2016, more than 100 were coming out.
A Marion resident since his family moved to the region when he was in junior high, Rubright also helped out at The Hub when Marion opened the fitness center in 2015. He pitched in with the Blue and Gold triathlon sponsored by the Marion Park District.
He died in September 2017, only 10 months after being diagnosed with a rare form of colon cancer.
"He was an extraordinary person and athlete," Martinez said.