On September 24, 2023, current and former Brothers of Sigma Mu Mu (SMM) Chapter, Third
District of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., (Omega Psi Phi) completed the grueling 144.6-mile
Ironman Chattanooga triathlon in Chattanooga, TN. The ”Sigma Mu Mu Ques” relay team that
competed in the event included Bro. Trevor Browne, who, in the first leg of the race, swam 2.4
miles in the Tennessee River; Bro. Derrick Clarke, who cycled the 116-mile bike course -
zigzagging through the rolling hills of Tennessee and Georgia; and Bro. Colonel Johari
Hemphill, now with Gamma Upsilon Chapter, who ran the hilly 26.2-mile marathon and brought
the team across the finish line. They participated in the triathlon as part of Sigma Mu Mu’s
Health Initiatives program and in honor of Bro. Colonel Eugene Montague (Omega Chapter)
who tragically died during the swim of the 2016 Ironman Chattanooga 70.3 triathlon. Bro.
Browne conceived and proposed the novel idea of an Ironman relay team of Ques after finishing
the Ironman Maryland 140.6 himself, and two 200-mile Ragnar Relay races with an all-Omega
team. He discovered that Ironman Chattanooga allowed relay teams and thought it would be the
ideal venue for an all-Ques Ironman team to honor Bro. Montague’s memory.
Bro. Browne broached the idea to other SMM athletes. Bros. Clarke and Hemphill
enthusiastically answered the call, knowing Ironman Chattanooga has some of the most difficult
cycling and running courses in the entire Ironman circuit. For almost a year, the threesome
committed to training hard in preparation for the race, which undoubtedly would challenge their
resolve and determination. “It was an opportunity to accomplish something many won't even
attempt, and continue to build camaraderie with like-minded Brothers”, said Bro. Hemphill. Bro.
Clarke viewed the opportunity as “a chance to get out of my comfort zone and accomplish a goal
which shows that I can do anything I set my mind to do, and potentially be a bright shining light
of inspiration for someone else like Gene Montague did.”
Race week came and the Sigma Mu Mu team traveled to Chattanooga to execute what it had
trained for long and hard. The kind words of appreciation and well wish from Bro. Montague’s
wife provided extra motivation for the team: “I am very grateful and honored in how [the
Omegas] are keeping Gene’s memory alive. Please let your frat brothers know I salute them and
pray for their safe and successful finish. God bless you all.” Brother Browne recalls being so
anxious about the race and its significance that he didn’t sleep much the night before.
Nevertheless, at 7:30 AM on race day, after listening to the national anthem, he and 1500 other
triathletes plunged into the Tennessee River to begin the swim. Bro. Browne commented, “I was
exhausted, somewhat frazzled and the water was cold and turbulent, but I persevered and kept
swimming –one stroke at a time.” To his surprise, Bro. Browne completed the 2.4-mile swim in
less than an hour. “I had a personal record swim, but more importantly, I honored Gene and
created an amazing memory with great Brothers.” Similarly, Bros. Clarke and Hemphill
overcame stomach and leg cramps, respectively, to complete their segments of the 144.6-mile
event. Team Sigma Mu Mu Ques was proud to finish the race in Bro. Montague’s honor and
display his picture at the Ironman Village. The team also answered questions from the local
media and other triathletes about Bro. Montague and its mission.
In 2015, SMM’s “FOH & See It Through” team ran into the athletic Bro. Montague and his
family while competing at the Tougher Mudder competition in Doswell, VA. Affectionately
called “Gene,” he was only known at the time by a couple of the SMM team members via his
home district and military service. Nevertheless, Gene had everyone laughing uncontrollably –
joking about his “bionic” leg braces, his sibling, and the SMM Brothers – as they all persevered
through the 13-mile obstacle course and hot conditions. By race end, Gene and his family were
embedded into the SMM team, and he made even the newly acquainted Brothers feel like old
friends. Notably, Bros. Clarke and Browne were among the SMM Brothers who fellowshipped
with Gene that day, making this year’s event extra special and meaningful to them. Gene was
full of life: witty, humorous, warm, enthusiastic, energetic, generous, kind and encouraging. “I
just love the Bruhs!” Gene would say that day, “Omega Psi Phi is the greatest frat in the world!”
Gene’s chapter at the time of his death, Pi Lambda Lambda of Prince William County, VA, has
held an annual Gene Montague Memorial 5K race in his honor.
SMM, located in Loudoun County, VA and chartered during Omega Psi Phi’s centennial year,
has always made its Health Initiatives program and fitness a significant part of the chapter’s
DNA. The Brothers regularly engage in group activities such as cycling, running, walking,
swimming and other fitness challenges. The chapter scroll includes Brothers who are triathletes,
marathoners and cyclists, and have participated in numerous triathlons, marathons, Ragnar
relays, Spartans and Tougher Mudder races, among other events.