Web posted Thursday, April 4, 2002

photo: sports

Going from bike to skis, Sea to Ski winner Richy Hankins looks for the competition.
Photo by Joel Gay, Homer News

Hankins, Donley tops in Sea to Ski

by Sepp Jannotta
Staff Writer

Sprinting off the Homer Spit at the start of the Sea to Ski Triathlon Saturday afternoon, Richy Hankins quickly pulled away from the pack. The only time Hankins caught a glimpse of his competition after that was when he was tearing out of the run-to-bike changeover area in the West Homer Elementary parking lot.

Despite being away from the race for six years, Hankins easily recaptured the Iron Man individual title to become a three-time champion. In 1996, his last Sea to Ski, he was the repeat Iron Man champion with a record time. In 2002, Hankins was back and right on stride.

"I thought I was doing good once I got on my skis and looked back and saw nobody was with me," Hankins said.

Following some distance behind Hankins were 68 other racers, competing under a flawless blue sky in the run-bike-ski triathlon that climbed over 800 feet from the beach start to its snowfield finish.

Hankins blasted through a course that led racers on a 5.6 kilometer run from Mariner Park, up West Hill Road for 6.7 kilometers of biking and ultimately across 5 kilometers of Baycrest ski trails, posting the top times in all three disciplines among individual triathletes. The 25-year-old Hankins, who works at Homer Boat Yard, finished with an overall time of 57 minutes, 20 seconds. Pete Alexson of Homer was second with a total time of 1:00:29.

The Iron Women champion, Shannon Donley of Anchorage, learned the hard way not to apply the brakes when she took not one, but two nasty tumbles from her bicycle on the one significant downhill during the middle portion of the race.

Riders cresting the top of a mostly-gravel Highland Drive, rocketed down Sprucewood Drive, which was a daunting mixture of recrystallized snow, smooth ice, half-melted slushholes.

"I touched my brakes to avoid somebody else who was going down and I was down," Donely said of the multi-racer pileup that left her and several others flailing. Donley added, "I guess I was kind of lucky, because only on the second fall did all my stuff <> my chain, my sunglasses, everything <> fall off."

Despite the setbacks she suffered on her bike, which allowed Homer's Jane Wiebe to scoot past her and into the lead, Donley kicked into her skis and finished with more than a two-minute lead over the second-place Wiebe.

Donley finished with a total time of 1:09:20, while Wiebe came in at 1:11:52.

Not even the top men's team (runner Travis Kauffman, biker Monte Garroutte and skier Andrew Peters) could best Hankins' time. The trio posted a time of 58:37, including the day's top split time among skiers, 14:36 by Peters.

The top women's team (Theresa Halpin, Emily Farrens and Samantha Halpin) finished in 1:21:23.

Sue Mauger, Dale Banks and Karen Northrop were the top co-ed team, finishing in 1:14:15.

Meanwhile, Matt Clark, competing in the Iron Man competition, learned why skate skis are the boards of choice once racers take to the snow.

"I didn't get passed by too many people on the first two legs," a smiling Clark said as he looked at his skis in a new light. Clark said he watched helplessly as most of the back of the pack flew past during the skiing leg, which he attacked with a classical stride.

Standing near a warming fire following the race, Donley compared her bruises with her friend Becky Hauser of Anchorage, who also suffered a wipeout during the biking leg.

"I think I was actually going faster on my side than when I was on my bike," Hauser said.