2018-2019 BTC Board Elections

It’s that time of year again when we begin consideration and voting for the open board member slots of the Buffalo Triathlon Club.  Bios are published here on the blog and online voting begins in November. Announcements of the winners will come as voting completes and new or reelected board members will be installed at our club banquet in January.

How Many People Are on the Board and How Many Slots are Available?

The BTC board consists of 11 members, and each term is 2 years, with half of the terms expiring each year.  The following 5 board members have 1 year remaining on their terms, and will continue to serve on the board for 2019:

  • Denise Salmons (current Vice President)
  • Karla Sommers (current Treasurer)
  • Amy Benedict (current Secretary)
  • David Federspiel
  • Brad Hilimon
  • Helga Ivanova

The terms of the following 5 board members are expiring, and they will need to run for re-election if they want to continue to serve on the board for 2019-2020:

  • Mark Sommers(current president)
  • Joe Pautler
  • Mark Knerr
  • George Hackford
  • Alisha Gannon

Who has currently been nominated or chosen to Run for a 2019/2020 Board Seat:

Click on each candidate name to see their bio and information:

More information on Board Member Duties and Activities

Board members meet once per month (for approximately 2 hours, usually over dinner at a local restaurant), and keep in touch via email and in-person to manage the overall direction and administration of the BTC.  Tasks that are overseen by the board include such things as weekly club workouts (swims & bricks), club events (Spring Thing, Ontario Scenario, etc), organization of the annual banquet and other social get-togethers, processing memberships, newsletter & blog, apparel orders, negotiating sponsorship and partnership agreements that include discounts for BTC members, accounting and budget management, BTC asset management (tent, bike boxes, safety equipment, etc), administration of the web site and Facebook page, BTC library management, and more!

Karla Sommers

My name is Karla Sommers.  I have been a BTC member since 2013. I joined the board in 2016 and have very much enjoyed being a part of it.  I take pride in being able to do whatever I can to help make this club be as wonderful as it is.  I am thankful every day for what I can do and what I have been able to accomplish.  In July of 2017, I completed Ironman Lake Placid.  Something I never thought I could do.  The support of my family and this club, played a big role in my decision to sign up and ultimately complete the race. 

When I joined the BTC and started on the road to triathlon, I was scared and didn’t know what to expect. The overwhelming support and care from each and every member of this club was overwhelming.  The rally cries and pictures and high fives make any struggle on the course (or perhaps even personal) easier to deal with.  My plan as a board member is to keep that support going and to do the best I can to provide to others what was and continues to be provided to me.  I will continue to contribute as much as I can to this great club and to continue to forge friendship that will live on well past my triathlon days.

Karla Sommers

Helga Ivanova

4 years ago I was introduced to the BTC by a co-worker of mine Mark Sommers. I had a strong believe I will be an Ironman one day…at that time I could not swim to the other end of the pool, I never owned a bike (my dad had a severe bike injury and made sure non of us kids ever owned a bike or learn to bike). The only thing I knew was to run some middle distances, despite couple broken bones, ACL replacement and meniscus tear. Little did I know that many of the BTC members I met while working out and at some races and events will become my closest friends and family.

I definitely have come long way, completed my first 1/2 distance IM aqua at Barrellman in September… unfortunately I have been dealing with injuries last 3 years. So I raced if I could or if I could not I volunteered or was a sherpa… I volunteered at Score-This races, the Buffalo Marathon BTC water stops, IMLP, and the lastest Light in the Darkness…it’s a very humbling experience to be part of the journeys and unbelievable achievements of others…high class athletes and unbroken spirits despite horrible circumstances is what the club members are made of.

I have been able to improve above and beyond because of the friendships, support, resources, sponsors, and all organized events the club has offered. I love and am a proud member of the BTC club,  not to mention BTC gear has one of the best designs…It will be an honor for me to be able to serve as a board member.


Helga Ivanova

Brad Hilimon

My name is Brad Hilimon, that “tall guy” you’ve probably seen at numerous BTC events the last four years. I was nominated to run the for BTC board. Five years ago I never would have imagined that someone would want me to help run a triathlon club but I will throw my name into the election and see what happens. Like many people I didn’t get into this until I was in my 30s but over the last four years I’ve come to like the sport more than I ever expected to.

My first race was a Tri in the Buff in 2014 where I had no idea what I was doing. The crazy waves that day didn’t make for a great first experience but I stuck with it. Soon after that race I joined the BTC and since then I’ve completed 9 more triathlons including IM Lake Placid 70.3 in September, IM Syracuse 70.3 in 2016 and various olympic and sprint races locally and across the state. In that time I’ve also completed 13 running races ranging from 5-25K on both road and trails.

I’m confident I would never have gotten this far without the opportunities the BTC has offered over the years, especially the open water swims and swim coaching opportunities. The BTC only exists because of the continued volunteer support from its members. There’s something to be said when you can go to races across the state (and in other states!) and people yell out “BTC!” along the course.

I’ll never win any races and I’m not sure I’ll ever do a “full” anything but if I can help get more people involved in the sport I’ll consider it a win. I’m looking forward to cheering people on in Lake Placid again next summer and possibly being a member of the BTC board.

– Brad Hilimon

Denise Perry Salmons

I have been a member of BTC for 5 years. When I joined BTC I was brand new to this sport. I had no idea
what I was getting into. This group welcomed me and my life hasn’t been the same since.

Over the yearsI completed my first Sprint, Ironman Wilmington in 2016 and most recently IMLP in July. Thanks to the support of this club and it’s members, who are now like family, the road to Ironman has been paved with more support than I ever imagined. Being on the Board will give me an opportunity to give back to the club and it’s members who have been there for me! Not to mention, I bring along killer cupcakes and a great club photographer!


Denise Perry Salmons

Mary Songster-Alpin

Hello, my name is Mary Songster-Alpin.  Many people know me via social media (Facebook) as Mary Suzanne.  I have been a member of the BTC since I first joined April 7th, 2015.  I am running for election to the BTC board directors because I can’t think of a better way to give back to a club that literally helped save my life and has helped me to become the person that I am today.

When I joined the BTC, I had started to embark on the greatest challenge of my life.  Just 4 months before joining the BTC, I was a struggling, depressed, overweight mom, wife and veterinarian.  I was in severe pain due to having ankle arthritis and struggling with the knowledge that my mother died in 2011 prematurely due, in part, to having severe arthritis, limited mobility and arthritis.  I was terrified of ending up in the same situation and not being around for my beautiful daughter.  I struggled with proper nutrition and with being able to stick with a physical activity that could help me lose weight and regain mobility.   Swimming was my only forte but that activity alone didn’t help me lose weight and become physically fit – I needed something more.  Fortunately I met some triathletes both in real life and on-line and their enthusiasm for the sport caused me to want to embark on this wonderful sport as well.  I joined the BTC Facebook group in 2012 and immediately found an extremely supportive group of friends.  I really wanted to become a triathlete so first I dabbled in indoor triathlons but still struggled with my weight and with trying to become active.   I then tried to compete as the swimmer in a relay at the ECC Kat with wonderful BTC members Lisa Trapasso and Erin Sheehan in 2014 but the untimely death of my father-in-law waylaid that plan.  I started sliding backward again and it wasn’t until the following January that I actually learned how to eat properly and started losing weight.  Once the light bulb went on and I started losing weight, I started being able to be more and more active and, although my ankle continued to be painful, I found that I could actually run – even a mile or more!!  After 4 months of slow gradual weight loss and increasing physical activity, I joined the BTC for real and successfully competed in the ECC Kat Sprint Tri – this time by myself!  I was a triathlete!! 

Through the love and support of my husband, daughter and my BTC family, I continued to lose weight and continued to compete in triathlons – building from sprints to Olympic aquabikes to Olympic triathlons to eventually half Iron-man distance triathlons.  I lost a total of 75 pounds and even though my ankle continued to deteriorate, I could still work out regularly and remain active.  I found that even though I was a slow triathlete, I had the endurance to compete in the long distance triathlons.  I then made the absolutely insane goal of actually competing in a full Ironman.  After a year of training and planning, I successfully completed Ironman Louisville on October 15th, 2017 with a time of 16 hours and 36 minutes.  I was now an IRONMAN!!!

I couldn’t have succeeded in this journey without the help of my BTC club mates.  Your help, advice, support and encouragement have meant the world to me and I can’t imagine competing in this sport without the help of such an awesome diverse yet united club.  Now that I achieved my bucket-list dream of completing an IRONMAN, I want to give back to this awesome community.

I know that you want to know more about me than just my triathlon journey though. I am a WNY native having grown up in Frewsburg NY near Jamestown.  I went to undergraduate college at Cortland (where I thought that I would become a physical education teacher until I learned that I couldn’t throw a ball to save my life and changed to a biology and chemistry major).  I obtained my doctorate degree from NC State where I lived for 8 years in the mid to late 90’s.  I now live in Machias (approximately 45 minutes south of Buffalo) with Jim, my husband of 25 years, and Kerianne, our almost 15 year old daughter.  We have a small farm just outside of town that we share with our 3 horses (Kaine, Brave Heart and Tutt), 1 dog (Misty – a 5 year old yellow lab), 2 cats (Paws and Lindsay), gecko (Buddy) and rabbit (Gus).  I own a veterinary clinic in Chaffee, NY called Pioneer Paws Veterinary Clinic – I am the solo full time veterinarian and my husband is my practice manager.  I occasionally do relief work as well for the emergency hospital in Orchard Park.  Our daughter is a sophomore at Pioneer Central School and is a skilled and talented equestrian, cross country and track runner and top-notch student – much of our time is focused on supporting her in her endeavors.  Although most of my life for the past year has been consumed with training for my Ironman, I have been an active volunteer in the Cattaraugus and Allegany County 4-H activities.  I have served as coach and mentor for Kerianne and other 4-Hers as they participated in horse knowledge based and show ring competitions at the county and state levels.  I am also very active in my church (Hope Lutheran Church) in Arcade where I have volunteered as a Sunday School teacher, in the altar guild and on various committees. 

I hope that you will consider me for election to the BTC board of directors and if elected, I will work hard to assist the club in any way possible to improve life for our members.

Renee Sossong

ReneeDear Fellow BTC Family Members,

I would like to take a moment to thank whoever it was that nominated me for a seat on the BTC Board.  I was humbled to receive the email that informed me.  It would be an honor to give back to the club/family that has  done so much for me over the past few years.  I was a late bloomer as far as triathlon or any kind of physical activity.  I started running just five years ago and literally stumbled into triathlon as a way to keep training through a running injury.  I have not only become addicted to the sport but also the people and the atmosphere surrounding triathlon.  I cannot imagine my life without it.  My teenage daughter did her first triathlon this summer and I am seeing her quickly be drawn into the family as well.  I feel blessed by the experiences and growth that have occurred in my life by being a part of the BTC family.  At this time, I would like the opportunity to give back by volunteering as a board member.  If selected, my energy and enthusiasm would allow me to put my unique talents to use serving the BTC family in whatever capacity needed.

Best Regards, Renee Sossong