Many of the key players behind the scenes of an IRONMAN event, in particular an IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship, are somewhat familiar faces in the community. They serve Greater Zion as part of the police department or hospital or local park staffs on a daily basis, but they step up when IRONMAN comes to town. Each of them find inspiration in the jobs they do, the stellar IRONMAN athletes and their performance, as well as our gorgeous surroundings. And we marvel as these Legends Among Us … both daily and in producing these worldwide events.
When the unexpected occurs, everyday heroes often step up and take action to save the day. That can certainly be said of Darrell Cashin who serves his community as the search and rescue liaison for the Washington County Sherriff’s Department. In this role, Cashin is asked to think of worst-case scenarios and plan how his team will react and assist.
Cashin, who first moved to the St. George area in 1976, has watched the community grow and is likely a familiar face to area residents. Outside of his role with the Sheriff’s Department, Cashin is also committed to serving his community in other ways, including volunteering his time during local IRONMAN events for more than a decade. During the races, Cashin manages the Transition 1 (T1) water search and rescue team at Sand Hollow Reservoir by keeping the water safe and leaping into action as needed as the athletes swim a whopping 1.2 or 2.4 miles, depending on the length of the race.
While Cashin’s efforts during the events are invaluable each year, he truly became a Greater Zion IRONMAN legend during the 2012 race. During the race, Cashin and his team of kayakers, lifeguards, boat operators and divers became the heroes who were needed by swinging into action as a storm suddenly appeared above Sand Hollow, turning the water to white caps and making it difficult for swimmers to finish the race.
“No one saw that storm coming,” said Cashin. “We had hundreds of people in the water and everyone got out safely.”
Cashin’s efforts didn’t stop that day though. Instead, he took what he learned in 2012 and applied it toward future races. “We learned a lot from that experience,” said Cashin. “Some key takeaways included a more diligent signing-in-and-out process for volunteers to make sure we can account for everyone in the water. We also implemented once-a-year training prior to every race, which includes surface water rescues, how to get swimmers from the water to safety boats, self-rescue technique – lots of technical elements.”
Although the IRONMAN event in 2012 made him a legend, the recent 2021 World Championship in May is one of Cashin’s proudest moments volunteering with IRONMAN. “Over the years, we’ve been given plaques of appreciation for our efforts, community grants to get new equipment, but the biggest accolade was after the World Championship. We had several organizers from other IRONMAN races reach out and compliment us on how thorough our water search and rescue efforts were. They wanted to learn from us. Hearing that from peers made my whole volunteer team incredibly proud.”
Beyond the performance of the volunteers he worked with, Cashin was also particularly inspired by the Greater Zion community during the 2021 World Championship. “The community really came together to showcase the area to the world,” he mentioned. “We really upped our game across all areas of the event. The community as a whole delivered a great event. It was inspiring to hear people comment on how well they were treated and how excited they are to come back.”
Over the years, the search and rescue volunteer group at T1 has grown and Cashin now manages between 100 and 120 rescuers, who are made up of lifeguards, divers and volunteers who operate boats and paddle kayaks. The footprint of the race has grown over the years and volunteers from search and rescue groups from all of Utah have provided resources and manpower, a situation that Cashin anticipates will only continue now that those groups see how rewarding the work is.
“For the World Championship in May, we had search and rescue teams from sheriff’s departments throughout the state come to southwest Utah to be a part of our operation,” said Cashin. “They provided manpower and additional resources like boats, kayaks and other equipment. So many volunteers got hooked and have been asking how they can help with the October race.”
For Cashin, he keeps coming back, not just for the spirit of volunteerism, but also to be inspired by the people in the water at each IRONMAN event. “It’s about the people getting into the water. It’s motivating to put it all together – providing the best service possible and preparing for all angles of water safety.”
Learn more about the 2022 Intermountain Healthcare IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship presented by Utah Sports Commission and read other inspirational stories from athletes like Darrell Cashin over on our Greater Zion IRONMAN blog.