It’s always a bit daunting to sum up a year filled with inspirational sports stories, breakthrough performances, new race records, along with an upcoming generation of young athletes who could no doubt, become an Olympian in their sport.
As we approach the final days of 2017, I take a look back at the many articles and notes I wrote for what turned out to be another jam-packed and action filled 52-calendar weeks. Now is the time to reflect upon a memorable year filled with Swim-Bike-Run.
Bree Wee’s complete dominance at the local race scene
She’s made the cut every year, so why should this year be any different? Simply put, Bree Wee has proven, time and time again, that she is by far the Big Island’s best all-around athlete in the realm of swim, bike and run.
Wee began 2017 on fire with her heart dead set on qualifying for the 2018 Hawaii HURT 100-mile Trail Race on Oahu. This set off a chain reaction with the 38-year old posting some ridiculously long training sessions on the roads and trails — some weeks averaging 100-plus miles — which resulted to some of her best race results of her career.
Some of her more notable wins of the year include the Hilo To Volcano 50K Ultra, Oahu’s Peacock 55-miler, Kona Marathon, Kauai Marathon, Lavaman Olympic Distance Triathlon, Ironman 70.3 Hawaii triathlon and The Prologue and Dragon cycling events.
Wee put a cap on her outstanding year with a personal best time of two hours, 59 minuteds and 18 seconds at December’s Honolulu Marathon and a convincing win at the recent Jingle Bell Beach Run 5K. But it’s her smile, style and grace she radiates while crushing the entire field on any road or trail that makes her simply, the best.
Breakthrough year for Patrick Stover
If there could be a male version of Wee’s 2017 running accomplishments, it would probably be her HURT Hawaii training partner, Patrick Stover. While the 28-year old is no triathlete, 2017 marked a breakthrough year for Stover as he not only posted his best running results, but the biggest wins of his career.
Stover was seen at the top of the podium at Hilo’s Big Island International Marathon, Mac-A-Thon 10K, Oahu Peacock 55-miler, Volcano and 100-percent Pure Kona Half Marathon. Finally, he put a cap on an outstanding year with a personal best time of 2:48:38 at the recent Honolulu Marathon.
Matt Daniels (left) smashes race records
In just a short span of two months, a former Kailua-Kona resident shattered two race records that caused quite the commotion among long time running enthusiasts and had many people wondering, who is Matt Daniels?
Daniels, a member of the Team USA Mountain Running, who also qualified to run in the 2016 Olympic Marathon trials, moved to Kona with his girlfriend in May with big hopes to give love, life and running in paradise a shot.
Daniels immediately turned heads when he eclipsed PATH’s 29-year old 10K race record of 31:18 set by 1994 Ironman World Champion, Greg Welch, with a new record of 31:07, that had him averaging a blistering pace of 5:01 minutes per mile. What made it more impressive was that Welch set the PATH 10K course record the same year that Daniels was born. In addition, Daniels completely decimated recent Jingle Bell Beach Run’s 5K race record of 16:04 set in 2015 by Jared Burris, and crossed the finish line with a new record of 14:56.
I wish the newly engaged Daniels much luck on his return to Colorado and his new running sponsorship with Nike.
Maile Lawson dominates at pool and open water swimming events
Whether she is swimming long course or short course age group meets in the pool, or making huge splashes at local open water swimming events, it’s no doubt that Maile Lawson is hard to beat.
Lawson continued her dominance in the waters by crushing her competition during the summer Hawaii Age Group Long Course Championships in Kihei, Maui. The 16-year old racked up five gold medals in the girl’s 15-16 year old age group by winning the 400-meter IM (5:12.35), 100 breaststroke (1:12.43), 100 butterfly (1:06.56) and 200 IM (2:25.99). Her biggest victory came in the 200 breaststroke where she broke a 30-year old state age group record with a time of 2:37:58.
Lawson also claimed the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming by finishing with the lowest cumulative time (1:07:04) in three qualifying races — the Cinco de Mayo Splash, the Hapuna Rough Water Swim and the King’s Swim. The Kona Aquatics Swim Club standout then wrapped up her season with three more state age group records at the recent Hawaii Age Group Short Course Championships held at the Kona Community Aquatic Center. Lawson won the 100-yard breaststroke (1:01:30), 200 breaststroke (2:15:51), and 400 IM (4:24:09).
A breakout year for Alec Ankrum
It’s hard to imagine that just two years ago, an already athletically gifted Alex Ankrum felt compelled to sign up for a Learn how to run a 5K running program. The inaugural LavaKids 101 was a 5-week program geared for middle school aged students to help them learn basic running fundamentals and culminated with them running their first 5K. Now, at just 15-years of age, the Kealakehe freshman has truly transformed into a stealth running machine who has been posting some incredibly fast times at the 3.1-mile distance.
Ankrum began the year with several (close) second place finishes. At the Run For Hops 5K he posted a time of 17:53, then followed that up with an 18:06 at the Big Island International Marathon 5K, and a time of 18:56 at the Mac-A-Thon 5K. Ankrum continued to get faster as the year progressed with big wins at Kaloko’s 3.5-mile and Wobble Gobble 3.5-mile footraces.
His debut in high school cross-country was equally as stellar as he finished off his season placing second overall at the BIIF Boys Cross Country Championships. It will be exciting to watch Ankrum’s progression with more incredible running race results in the years to come.
The wild factor in David Wild
If there is anyone who truly expressed such a free spirited, yet unquestionable passion for swim-bike-run, it would be David Wild.
Known for his electric smile, flowing handlebar moustache and bearded face, the 30-year old Konawaena High School teacher has proven that it’s not always about winning, but about being true to yourself while having lots of fun.
At April’s Lavaman Waikoloa Olympic Distance Triathlon, Wild raced in the elite division and was the first to break the tape as the winner. However, it turned out that another, who competed in a subsequent age group division, was the actual victor. Although disappointed, Wild took the news like a true champion and decided to focus on the positives of his day — like setting new personal bests in each discipline, and having fun by using his moustache and beard to his advantage to shred more than six minutes off his time from a year ago.
Wild’s display of great sportsmanship on that day while expressing a fun “wild factor” at every race he entered is what made him memorable in 2017.
Steve Borowski steps back as head coach, breaks new 70-74 age group record
After two decades at the helm of the Kona Aquatics and Kealakehe High School swim teams, legendary swim coach and Hawaii Waterman Hall of Famer, Steve Borowski, announced earlier in the year, “It’s time.”
The Holualoa resident is considered to be one of Hawaii’s most decorated and successful swim coaches, and his decision to take a step back as head coach was a surprise to many. However, just six months later and after undergoing several surgeries to repair his meniscus and other soft tissue tears in his knees and elbow, Borowski found himself back at the pool but this time, as a competitor.
Competing in the men’s 70-74 age group, Borowski pulled off an impressive hat trick by winning three events at the 2017 US Masters Swimming Summer National Championships in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Borowski won the 100-meter freestyle in a time of 1 minute and 5.54 seconds, the 50-meter butterfly in 30.81 seconds, and the 50-meter freestyle in 27.93 seconds. Borowski proved that no matter what age you are, never say never.
roller coaster year for Josiah Randerson (left)
It’s never easy to come back from any injury, especially when it sidelines you for half the year. Josiah Randerson became a force to be reckoned with when he began the year dominating every Peaman Biathlon event from January through May. In addition, Randerson made history when he became the youngest victor at 15-years of age to win a Team Mango triathlon event in its 26-year history.
But a cycling accident over Memorial Day weekend left the aspiring ITU triathlete with a severe collarbone break. Down, but not out, Randerson’s passion for swim-bike-run continued by offering his unwavering support to every athlete as a volunteer at local racing events. If there is an award for valor in triathlon, you can bet Randerson certainly deserves it.
Duke Becker shines at age group swim championships
While he might not have been the first to run up the beach at any open water swimming events in 2017, another standout from the Kona Aquatic Swim Club has already begun making quite a name for himself in the pool.
Duke Becker turned heads when he racked up five gold medals and broke two age group state records during the summer Hawaii Age Group Long Course Championships. The then 12-year old Kailua-Kona resident won the boy’s 11-12 year old age group 400-meter IM (5:11.65 seconds), 200 breaststroke (2:44.21), 50 breaststroke (34.04), 100 breaststroke (1:15.41) and the 200 IM (2:27.80).
Known for his dazzling smile, Becker, who turned 13-years of age in July, continued his consistency in the pool as he competed in a new age division, the boy’s 13-14 age group at the recent Hawaii Age Group Short Course Championships. Becker bagged second place finishes by finishing strong in the 100-yard and 200-yard breaststroke, 200 backstroke, and 400 IM. It’s just a matter of time before Becker breaks more state records and begins topping a few open-water swimming events.
Peaman events celebrate 30 years
After a long roller coaster year regarding permitting issues that clouded most of the Peaman Biathon races held at the famous Kaiakeakua Beach next to the Kailua Pier, many wondered about the future of Peaman’s popular, free, fun, family-oriented community events.
However, thanks to the hard work of local attorneys Billy Kenoi, Jason Braswell and Jeff Foster, Sunday’s Nov. 19 Peaman Biathlon event had much to celebrate as the morning marked Peaman’s 30th anniversary of hosting free swim-run events for the community and also, his first official biathlon event.
“It’s a feeling of freedom and a big relief,” Peaman said in an interview on that Sunday. “Today feels really free and happy. I think it reflects in everybody’s attitude and personalities today. You can just see the energy flowing. We are back full force and full energy. It’s a community event put on by the community for the community.”
Sunday: Frozen Pea Productions presents Doc Ferren Hall of Fame Biathlon at Kaiakeakua Beach. Start time is 8:08 a.m. for the free half-mile swim and 3.9-mile run. A shorter LavaKids Pea Wee course is also availabl. For more information contact Peaman at 938-2296.
Monday: Team Mango Races will host the Journey-2-LaLa Land hill climb for cyclists and runners at Lako Street. Start time for the 17-mile quad buster is 8 a.m. for cyclists with runners given an earlier start time of 6 a.m. For registration details and more information visit teammangoraces.com.