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True to its founder's dream, MK Splash-N-Dash returns

July 21, 2022

Author:  
Splash-N-Dash

Source:  
Antigo Daily Journal

Jack Lake is the setting for August 6 event.  

The MK Splash-N-Dash, a mix of swimming and running designed for all ages, returns to Veterans Memorial Park at Jack Lake on Saturday, August 6, 2022. The venue, located 17 miles north of Antigo is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike, but makes the perfect backdrop for the popular event.

A Swimming Start but Terrible Turn

In 2013, Michelle Koss and friends created Splash- N-Dash as a fundraiser for the Antigo Penguins Swim Club. “MK” was added to the event’s name in 2016, months after Koss, only 53 and a wife and mother of five, was struck from behind and killed by an inattentive motorist northeast of Antigo on her first road-biking outing of the season.

Koss, a 1980 graduate of Elcho High School, was a registered nurse and certified diabetic educator for Aspirus Langlade Hospital. She was a popular advocate of healthy living and could usually be found, during off-duty hours, skiing, biking, swimming, kayaking, and encouraging others to do so.

“She believed in teaching children and adults to have fun while being physically active,” husband, Tom Koss, said. “She left a legacy of healthy living to people of all ages in her community and throughout northeast Wisconsin.”

The MK Splash-N-Dash Legacy

“Her desire was to see the Splash-N-Dash become the sole fundraiser for the Antigo Swim Club, to encourage heart-healthy activities, and to bring the community together in a fun atmosphere,” race director Michelle Arlen explained. “It has matured over the years in pursuit of these goals. We are proud to be a part of this tradition and pursue Michelle’s vision.”

The park is a hidden gem in the “County of Trails” for its mix of biking, skiing, equestrian, and motorized byways that spiderweb through 126,000 acres of public land split among county, state, and federal ownership.

“We are blessed in Langlade County with a set of natural jewels that are not wellknown, with a huge mix of county and state lands along with swaths of the Chequamegon- Nicolet National Forest,” Koss said. “You just can’t find that in most places, even in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.  On a warm summer day at Jack Lake, the picnic area and sandy beach are filled with families of all ages, high school and college friends, all splashing and biking, hiking and camping and enjoying the outdoors in a pristine setting.”

Competitors celebrate with a high five during a past edition of the
MK Splash-N-Dash, held at Veterans Memorial Park at Jack Lake.
The popular run and swim event returns on August 6. Registration is open.

An Event Among Beauty, For Everyone

Splash-N-Dash opens with a 500-meter swim through the spring-fed waters of Jack Lake, which can be chilly even in midsummer. It’s a non-motorized lake, the area patrolled only by kayakers, paddleboarders, and loons. Exiting the lake, participants quickly switch to running shoes and shorts for a 5K run. It’s
not at all like a neighborhood 5K. Instead, runners follow rugged single-track trails around undeveloped Game Lake, including a boardwalk over a picturesque marsh. Expect a knee-deep water crossing where Game and Jack Lake kiss.

 The challenge concludes back where it started, at the Jack Lake beach, perfect for a post-race cool-down. It’s all timed, but no one seems in a rush. There’s cheering and encouragement among racers and families, laughter, music, refreshments, and a buzz that comes only from enjoying the outdoors.

For a couple years, the Splash-N-Dash also included a mountain bike portion, creating a true triathlon. It returns to its original two-sport format for 2022. “We found that participants appreciated the simplicity of a swim and run only,” Arlen said.

To ensure there’s something for all abilities, competitors may enter individually or as a team. Those not interested in venturing into the lake waters can choose to “dash” only and compete in the 5K trail run. True to Michelle Koss’ focus on youth, there’s a Kids Splash - N - Dash, which consists of a 100-meter swim followed by a half-mile run.

A young competitor gets a boost across the finish line 
during the MK Splash-N-Dash at Veteran’s Memorial
Park. The upcoming event includes a special division for
the youngest runners and swimmers.

The entry fee is $40 for the individual Splash- N-Dash or $70 per team; $25 for just the Dash; and $15 for the youth event.

Lodging is available at hotels in Antigo or, for the more adventurous, at the Jack Lake Campground, where there are rustic cabins for rent, back-country campsites. and well-kept drive-up sites that will appeal to every outdoor enthusiast. Registration continues through the morning of the event. To enter or for more information, visit mktriathlon.com or check out the race Facebook page at MK Triathlon & Splash n Dash.

Benefits for Self & Beyond

Splash-N-Dash youth aquathons have gained popularity in recent years, with many, although not the Langlade County event, sanctioned by USA Triathlon. For 2022, the Colorado Springs-based organization is promoting more than 45 swim-run events across the nation designed to introduce youth athletes between the ages of seven and 15 to the multi-sport lifestyle.

“With a focus on participation rather than competition, minimal gear and equipment requirements and approachable race distances, the Splash-N-Dash series offers a great way for youth athletes to get their feet wet and try multisport in a fun, non-competitive atmosphere,” Brian D’Amico, director of events at USA Triathlon, said.

In Langlade County, Antigo swim team coach Mary Ponasik said she has seen first-hand the benefits of Splash-N-Dash on her team and on the community. “Many of the participants use the event as a catalyst to get friends and family, often first-timers, to enter and have a fun experience,” Ponasik said. “As the race has evolved, it has succeeded in encouraging people of all ages and levels of fitness to get active.”

Nine years after its inception, organizers said Michelle Koss would be delighted with how Splash-N-Dash has evolved while staying true to its original goal. “Michelle lived her active life to the fullest and was dedicated to helping those around her do the same,” Tom Koss said. “And she truly believed we should find some fun in our journey to healthy living. That’s what Splash-N-Dash is all about.”

A pair of competitors emerge from the trail run portion of the
MK Splash-N-Dash and race toward the finish line.