Twenty-eight individual competitors and six teams competed in the annual Homer Ironman Triathlon Saturday.
Greg Smith, 16, was the first-place finisher with a time of 1:44.55. Hanna Young, 25, took first place for the women with a final time of 1:52.47.
The course began with a 1,000-yard swim at the Kate Kuhns Aquatic Center, a 15-mile bike ride from the pool, out East End Road, up East Hill, along Skyline, down West Hill and on the Sterling Highway to the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon. Then bikes were put aside for running shoes and a five-mile run from the lagoon back to Homer High School.
Organized as a fundraiser for the Homer Mariner swim and dive team, Scott Smith, head coach for the swimmers, said the triathlon raised close to $1,500, which goes toward travel funds.
In addition to noting the sunny day, the proud Smith also said, “Oh, did I mention my son won?”
Of the six teams competing, this was the first year a Special Olympic unified team, comprised of Special Olympic swimmer Myrna Kuchenoff, non-Special Olympic athlete Mark Eaton on bike, and Special Olympic runner Scott Trail running with his brother Greg Trail, a member of the Nikolaevsk cross country team, placed 20th with a finish time of 2:17.58.
“This was our first time and we learned a lot and see how we could have easily shaved five minutes off our time, which would have put us ahead of three teams,” said Carol Shuler, the Homer community director of Special Olympics-Alaska.
When Kuchenoff first began swimming a distance of 1,000 yards, she was doing it in 40 minutes. Saturday, she swam the distance in 27 minutes. Easton had agreed to ride the bicycle portion, promising he was “not going to be a super hero,” but doing it to complete the team.
“Then he got fired up when someone passed him going up East Hill,” said Shuler.
“He was determined to pass this guy back. He told me when he got to the top of West Hill, he yelled, ‘I own the hill,’ and went flying by the guy who passed him.”
More than once, Trail felt like he was ready to pull out of the five-mile run, “but the cheering of the two supporters leapfrogging him helped,” said Shuler.
“What really made the difference, though, was his brother, Greg, who is a Nikolaevsk cross-country runner who ran with Trail to pace him. Greg would not let him give up,” Shuler said.
Shuler said the team went “above and beyond” what was expected.
“I am extremely proud of all the participants, including their coach, Rihiyyih Baker,” said Shuler. “We’re already brainstorming for next year. Two triathlon teams?”
With nine of the Mariner swim team participating — six individuals and three on a team — the triathlon was an opportunity for Smith to see them in action before this week’s dive-swim meet.
“There was a good measure of where the kids are at and I was very pleased with what I saw,” said Smith.
The Homer Invitational begins Thursday with diving competition at 4 p.m. Swimming competition begins Friday at 4 p.m.
“Eight teams will attend this meet, so it will have good competition,” said Smith, encouraging the community to “come and support the Homer swimmers.”
This is Smith’s first season to coach the Homer swim team. He swam while attending Service High School in Anchorage and was a Division 1 swimmer while attending Arizona State University. His competitive experience in high school motivated him to become the Homer coach.
When not coaching, Smith works with “Youth With a Mission.”
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
14th annual Homer Ironman Triathlon
Gregory Smith, 1:44:55
Mike Crawford, 1:50:32
David Martin, 1:51:40
Hanna Young, 1:52:47
Annie Ridgely, 1:53:12
Angie Brennan, 1:53:29
Remi Nagle, 1:58:13
Katra Wedeking, 1:59:46
Griffin Downey, 2:01:40
Team Megan, 2:05:18
Ed Gross, 2:05:54
Jonathan Croly, 2:06:24
Lila Johnson, 2:09:09
Devry Garity, 2:09:35
Lauren Kuhns, 2:09:40
Team Green, 2:11:05
Kacy Hillman, 2:13:25
Why Not Tri, 2:13:53
Super Cool Chicas, 2:14:55
Special Olympics Unified Team, 2:17:58
Rhonwen Jennings, 2:19:10
Peter Roedl, 2:20:54
Kati Glosser, 2:23:08
Oriana Badajos, 2:24:47
Ingrid Harrald, 2:24:47
Jason Warfle, 2:31:22
Jenna Fabich, 2:32:42
Cheyanne Smith, 2:36:48
Tony Oliver, 2:37:19
Amy Baxter, 2:44:20
Mariner Boys, 2:45:02
Thomas Vanek, 2:51:05
Alicia Porter, 3:19:15