With Meridian’s Tyson Pompelia out of this year’s 40th annual Heart O’ Dixie Triathlon, the title was up for grabs.

But Adam Leister made sure the title stayed in the Queen City.

Leister, a Meridian native, used a strong bike portion of the race and finished with a time of 2:00.33 to win his first Heart O’ Dixie title.

Leister was just happy to keep the Heart O’ Dixie title in Meridian after Pompelia had won the race for three straight years. 

“With Tyson not racing, it kind of put some pressure on me to win it,” Leister said. “Tyson sort of put some pressure on me to keep the win in the home town. It’s Meridian versus everybody. It’s a totally different race when Tyson isn’t in it. I have got a lot of big shoes to fill since he’s not in it. He’s one of my good friends, and it’s just not the same with him not in it. To me, this race will always have an asterisk beside it because Tyson wasn’t racing.”

Leister, 35, was the top-ranked male coming into the event but came out of the half-mile swim at Lake Tiakotta in Louisville in sixth place with a time of 11:36, which was sixth-best overall. Leister started to push the action on the bike and had the best time there with a time of 1:03.09. Leister then finished out the race, a 7-mile run from Williamsville to the Neshoba County Fairground in 44:04 to win the race by more than a minute.

“The weather was perfect,” Leister said. “I started out front, and my team captain started second. He beat me out of the water, but I caught him on the bike. I don’t really have a strength, but I am above-average on everything.”

Leister decided in December that he was going to get serious about his training and dedicated himself to improving his training.

“I hired a coach back in December and worked with him to try and figure out what I needed to do because I have been flying by the seat of my pants,” Leister said. “I was trying to figure out how to train right. So basically, I was putting in two to four hours a day and about 25 hours a week. It’s that simple; anybody can do it. If you can train for two hours a day, you can beat 95 percent of the people out here. It’s not rocket science.”

Meridian’s Daniel Wile was a close second place in the event with a time of 2:01.58. Wile had a strong run, finishing the hilly 7-mile course in 40:01, which was second overall. His bike time was 1:07.27, while his swim time was 12:43.

 “It was a good day; the weather was good and I felt good,” Wile said. “I started the swim and felt like my sighting could have been better. I didn’t swim the straightest lines today. I felt good on the swim and saw some improvement there — it’s something I have been working on. I had a good day on the bike and felt strong on the run. I just tried to find a pace that I could maintain and not think about what was coming up.”

It was a big day for the Wile family as Anna Wile defended her title as the top female finisher with a time of 2:15.39. Wile had the second-strongest swim in the field with a time of 11:13, a bike of 1:14.10 and a run of 48.34. The next-closest female was Yekaterina Karpitskaya of Biloxi, who finished with a time of 2:19.49.

“I thought it was a good race,” Anna Wile said. “I was pleased that it was a little bit cooler this year than it has been in years past. I felt very strong on the swim and feel like it’s one of my strongest disciplines. I was a little slower on the bike than last year but just tried to stay in the moment and stay with it and not panic and over-bike. Every time I run this course, I just try to focus on each mile, especially the run. It’s such a beast of a run, I just try to take it one mile at a time and keep a good pace. I was thankfully able to put it all together today.”

Daniel Wile was much happier over his wife being the top female finisher.

“It’s fun, and we love doing this together,” Daniel Wile said. "Doing a triathalon takes a lot of time, and it often takes time away from their family, and it’s something they have to juggle. But this is an activity that we enjoy doing together, so it’s not a conflict for us. It’s good to see Anna, succeed and I’m proud to see her succeed.”

Philadelphia’s Richard Goldman was the top finisher from Neshoba County, winning the Dickey Nowell Award for the eighth straight year and 13th time overall. Goldman was 27th overall with a time of 2:21.16. Goldman had a 13:42 swim, 1:10.58 bike and 53.39 run. It was Goldman’s slowest time since 2018.

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