Will Oviatt of Anchorage approaches the top of East Hill. Oviatt went on to finish in fifth place overall -Photo by Hal Spence, for the Homer News

Triathletes brave hills, rain for swim team fundraiser

Anchorage athletes competing in Saturday’s triathlon in Homer said the grueling climb up East Hill Road during the bike segment was what made the Homer High School Swim Team-sponsored event so attractive.

“It’s a unique course. That nearly three-mile uphill is a challenge,” said the 43-year-old overall winner Jens Beck, a CPA and the CFO of ASRC Energy Services, a subsidiary of Arctic Slope Regional Corp. A challenge, yes, but when Beck rounded the corner at East Hill Road and Skyline Drive well ahead of his nearest competitor he hardly looked winded.

Daniel Folmer, another tri-athlete from Anchorage who finished a few minutes behind Beck, also liked the demanding uphill.

“I wish the race included two loops around (the bike segment) so we could do it again. The Spit part is kind of boring,” he said, adding that he understood why the Spit, so much an iconic part of Homer, was included in the course.

The annual triathlon is a fundraiser for the Mariner Swim Team and typically draws competitors from around the state. It begins with a 1,000-yard swim, followed by the 15-mile bike up East Hill Road, across Skyline Drive, down West Hill Road, across town and out onto the Homer Spit to a location short of the Fishing Hole, where competitors drop their bikes and run the five miles back to Homer High School.

Beck emerged from the pool first, changed quickly while mumbling something about it being his “worst transition ever,” boarded his bike and sprinted downhill toward East End Road. He broke the tape at Homer High School with a total time of just 1:20:42, nearly four minutes ahead of Folmer. Asked for an interview once he’d had time to catch his breath, Beck was ready in less than a minute. Raised in Germany, Beck first came to Alaska to swim for the University of Alaska Anchorage in 1992, he said.

Three Mariner swimmers competed in the event this year, including sophomore Greg Smith, 15, the only team member to do the whole event. He crossed the line in 2:03:44. Also competing for the Mariners but as parts of triathlon teams were Lauren Kuhns, a senior, and Cheyenne Smith, a junior. A former Mariner swimmer, Will Roedl, 25, finished sixth overall among men with a time of 1:53:10. 

In past years, said Assistant Swim Coach Donna McNulty, participation was mandatory for swim team members. More recently, however, swimmers have been excused from competing in favor of serving as race officials, lap counters, water-station attendants and other functionaries along with several adult volunteers. A former Mariner, McNulty said she competed in the event three times; her best time, just over two hours.

“It’s really challenging. I would always think, ‘I hate this’ and I’d want to stop. But when it was over it was a really good feeling.” She said the hardest parts for her were trying to get clothes on (for the bike segment) after the pool, and the final slope up Lake Street back to the school.

The fastest female finisher was Katra Wedeking, 39, of Anchorage, with a time of 2:02:19, followed by Ann Bruner, 49, also of Anchorage, at 2:05:37.

The fastest team, calling themselves Generation III, included swimmer Lauren Kuhns, her mother Bridget, and Victoria Krogman. Together, they established a finishing time of 1:54:48.

Mariner Swim Coach Rebecca Hardy spent most of the morning under a steady drizzle welcoming competitors at the finishing line at the gate to the pool parking area. Also there were several swimmers who served as timers and parking lot traffic cops. Hardy said she hoped they didn’t come down with colds; a few of were running about in bare feet. Hardy expressed confidence in her team as the season gets into full swing.

“The team is pretty fast,” she said, noting that several members were making significant improvement. About team prospects at this season’s finale, the state meet in Juneau she said, “I’m super-excited.”

Saturday’s triathlon raised more than $1,500. There were 40 competitors overall.


Triathlon results

Saturday, beginning and ending at Homer High School

Top 5 finishers, men and women

Men: 1. Jens Beck, 1:20:42; 2. Daniel Folmar, 1:24:35; 3. Jason Lamoreaux, 1:25:01; 4. Mick Bakker, 1:28:45; 5. Will Oviatt, 1:39:52.

Women: 1. Katra Wedeking, 2:02:19; 2. Ann Bruner, 2:05:37; 3. Annie Ridgley, 2:08:22; 4. Kacy Hillman, 2:11:30; 5. Amanda Hawes, 2:13:17.

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