A resident of San Francisco for six years, Mike Vulanich had what he considers one of his greatest experiences in sports when he cheered on the Cleveland Cavaliers as they beat the Golden State Warriors 93-89 to win the NBA championship June 19 in Oracle Arena.

A resident of San Francisco for six years, Mike Vulanich had what he considers one of his greatest experiences in sports when he cheered on the Cleveland Cavaliers as they beat the Golden State Warriors 93-89 to win the NBA championship June 19 in Oracle Arena.

The Dublin native, who graduated from Watterson High School in 2004, got to enjoy a new sort of competitive high more recently, not far from where he grew up.

Vulanich turned in the best overall time among the 1,908 athletes, including 1,131 men, who battled for the overall championship in the Ironman 70.3 Ohio on Aug. 21 in Delaware.

The Ironman 70.3 Ohio consisted of a 1.2-mile swim in Delaware Lake followed by a 56-mile bike course through Delaware, Morrow and Marion counties and a 13.1-mile run that began and ended in Ohio Wesleyan University's Selby Stadium.

Vulanich finished in four hours, 12 minutes, 53 seconds.

"I moved out (to California) six years ago, but this was very much a hometown race for me," Vulanich said.

"I've been doing triathlons since when I still lived in Ohio, and when I saw this (event was coming to) Ohio I knew I had to run it. I grew up in Dublin and got to stay with my parents."Vulanich grew up playing baseball and began competing in cross country and track at Watterson, but he said he "was nothing to write home about" in high school.

He said he does believe competing at the prep level helped lay a foundation for success.

Vulanich went to college at Xavier University but didn't compete in sports.

"Sometimes it takes a few years to develop as a runner," said Matt McGowan, who is in his 28th season as Watterson's cross country coach and coached Vulanich in high school. "It's always nice to see a kid do well later on."

Vulanich competed in the Ironman 70.3 world championships in Austria in 2015 and plans to compete in the world championships of the event again on May 21, 2017, in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Although the winner of the Ironman 70.3 Ohio automatically qualified for Chattanooga, Vulanich already had qualified for that event from the Ironman 70.3 Vineman in Windsor, California, on July 9.

Vulanich competes in four or five Ironman 70.3 competitions per year. His final event of 2016 is Sept. 11 in Santa Cruz, California.

He said he found out about five minutes after he completed the Ironman Ohio that he had finished with the best time.

Another competitor crossed the finish line ahead of Vulanich, but because of a staggered start, Vulanich ended up the winner.

"I had a feeling it was a possibility," he said. "My family was there in the stands and my dad showed me ranked first when he refreshed his phone.

"I worked hard and it was a painful day, so it felt earned, but I was happy to have my family and friends there to support me. An Ironman is not a fan-friendly sport because it takes six hours once you get there early in the morning."

After completing his swim in 35:10 and the bike course in 2:12.33, Vulanich made up time on the competition by having the fastest run overall of 1:21.06.

It wasn't a personal best, however. That came July 15, 2015, when he finished in 4:09.42 to place second in his age group and third overall in the Ironman 70.3 in Muncie, Indiana.

Vulanich has spent time in California training with Meredith Kessler, a 1996 Columbus Academy graduate who has won numerous Ironman 70.3 events as well as what's considered a "full" Ironman, an Ironman 140.6, which consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run.

Vulanich, who also has competed in full Ironman events, works in marketing for Fitbit, which sells fitness trackers and other apparel.

He also competes for Team Every Man Jack, and he and four others from the triathlon team were pictured on the cover of "Triathlete" magazine for its March/April 2016 issue.

Vulanich knows he has come a long way over the past decade.

"When I went to Xavier I tried to stay fit, but I was just a normal student," he said. "I did some biking and wanted to swim, and just fell in love with triathlons.

"It uncovered a love of endurance athleticism for me. I was working in Cincinnati and took a transfer out to (California) in 2010, and I really like it.

"It's a place where an active lifestyle is well-embraced and it's easier to do year-round."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek