Runnin’ with Rani: A look back at the top 2018 performances in swim, bike and run

  • The Ankrum Brothers, from back to front are Alec, Aiden and Archer. (Hawaii Sport Events/Special to West Hawaii Today)

Another year of Big Island swim-bike-run is just about in the books.

As we are just a few days away from ringing in the 2019 New Year, now presents the perfect opportunity to reflect back at what defined a year filled with many great sports stories, historic achievements and outstanding performances.


And so I would like to share my thoughts on what were some impressive performances and sport stories from an outstanding 2018. In no particular order:

Ankrum Brother Trio Dominate

These three brothers managed to bring home a BIIF Boys Cross Country Championship, victory at the Hapuna Rough Water Swim, and bragging rights as the youngest winner in history of all 30-years of Peaman Biathlons. Certainly, there is no lack of conversation starters at the Ankrum family dinner table!

Let’s start with the oldest brother, Alec Ankrum. A 16-year old sophomore at Kealakehe High School, Alec accomplished a unbelievable feat by not only crushing all six regular cross country season meets, but also winning the BIIF Boys Cross Country Championships for a perfect undefeated season.

And then there’s the middle child, Aiden (13), who pulled off an upset at June’s Hapuna Rough Water 1-Mile Swim to become the 41st champion of the historic swim event.

And finally the younger brother, Archer, who at just 10-years of age made history in June by becoming the youngest ever to win in 30-years of Peaman Biathlon events.

Simply put, there is a secret to their success. The Ankrum brothers believe they can.

Sophia Cash makes BIIF XC History

Her name will forever be inked into the BIIF Cross Country record books. And that’s because the Honokaa High School senior made history when she became the Big Island’s first four-time BIIF Girls Cross Country Champion (2015-2018).

We watched her excel as a freshman, leaving spectators at the finish line wondering who had just crossed first. And then she did it again, and again and again, when it counted most, almost to perfection. Yes, she will forever be remembered as, “The incredible Sophia Cash.”

Penn Henderson strongest hill climber on two wheels

From winning January’s Journey to LaLa Land to conquering Sea To Stars — a brutal 32.5-mile hill climb from sea level to the Visitors Center on Mauna Kea — the 46-year old Keauhou resident proved unbeatable in a year filled with some exciting cycling events. Other races that pegged his name at the top include The Prologue 10-mile Individual Time Trial, The Dragon — which featured nine steep hill climbs — Kaloko’s grueling 6.5-mile Climb, and Mauna Loa’s King of the Mountain Championships — a 17-mile grind from the bottom of Mauna Loa road to the top.

Tawnie McDonald makes history at Maui’s Cycle to the Sun

While she may not have won every cycling event she entered in 2018, the 55-year old Kailua-Kona resident accomplished an incredible feat by becoming the first Big Island woman to ever win Maui’s Cycle to the Sun Race in a time of 3:41:58. The cycling race, which began in the early 80s, features an epic 36-mile hill climb from the quaint town of Paia at sea level to the summit of Maui’s Haleakala for an elevation gain of 10,000 feet.

McDonald also owns the women’s course record for the Sea To Stars cycling race, set in 2016 in a time of 4:32:57, which begins on Waikoloa Drive and ends at the Visitors Center on Mauna Kea.

Brock Imonen and Kuuleionalani Patterson highlight open water swimming events

Brock Imonen and Kuuleionalani Patterson each nabbed two wins over a summer filled with the Big Island’s popular open water swim races. Imonen, who is a junior at Hawaii Preparatory Academy, won May’s Cinco de Mayo Splash and September’s Kukio Bluewater 1.2-mile swim over a field that included a two-time Olympian, Sarah True, and a former Hawaii professional triathlete, Tim Marr.

Patterson, a Kealakehe senior who swims for the Kona Dolphins, showed consistency at the open water swim races as she handily took home the Triple Crown title for the women with her three-race cumulative time of 1:10:50. She won both the Cinco de Mayo Splash and King’s Swim, and finished second at the Hapuna Rough Water Swim. It was the second Triple Crown for Patterson, who also won in 2016.

Breakthrough year for Winona Chen

Two words truly describe Winona Chen, consistency and patience. After years of climbing the ladder on the results list — going from a beginner to topping her age group at any swim race or run — Chen validated that she is also a force to be reckoned with on two wheels by winning the women’s division at this year’s Sea To Stars 32.5-mile hill climb and Mauna Loa’s 17-mile Queen of the Mountain Championships.

Chen also took home gold at November’s Triptophan Turkey Day Triathlon.

Look to the 28-year old to produce more first place finishes in any swim-bike-run in the years to come.

Jose Graca and Brenda Avery at the top of their game

Even after a miscalculated dive for the finish line at this year’s Lavaman Olympic Distance Triathlon that left him in second place, Graca, a Brazilian native who has called Kailua-Kona home for the last five years, has not stopped smiling and for good reason.

The 43-year old has been unstoppable when it comes to triathlons, winning the Inaugural Xterra Hawaii Island, Team Mango Mini Monster 70.3, and being the top Big Island finisher at October’s Ironman World Championships.

And then there’s Brenda Avery. Who says age is factor for the 53-year old who combined her competitive swimming background and speed out on the roads to win at almost every Peaman Biathlon event this year?

The Kailua-Kona resident and mom to two twin girls (age 21) won the prestigious Alii Challenge 6-mile Rough Water Swim in August and was the top Big Islander at Ironman’s Hoala 2.4-mile Swim.

She also experienced a personal running breakthrough with victories at the Mac-A-Thon 10K and recent Jingle Bell Beach Run 5K. Surely, there will be much more to be written about Avery in the next year to come.

Bree Brown dominates the local race scene

Once again she’s made the cut, and why wouldn’t she? Simply put, Bree Wee — now Bree Brown — continues to prove that she is by far the Big Island’s best all-around athlete in the realm of swim, bike and run.

The now 39-year old began the year competing and finishing the grueling Hawaii HURT 100-mile Trail Race on Oahu — certainly not for the faint of heart even if you enjoy running and the trails. And while posting some ridiculously long training sessions on and off-road averaging 100-plus miles a week, she smiled and graced the podium at several of the island’s biggest races.

From capturing her eighth Lavaman Waikoloa Olympic Distance Triathlon title, to crushing the Kona Marathon and Inaugural Xterra Hawaii Island, and topping the podium at local half marathon events like the Kau Coffee Trail Run and 100% Pure Kona Coffee, Brown was by far, in a league of her own.

While a freak trail running accident at the recent Xterra 21K Trail Run World Championships held at Kualoa Ranch on Oahu earlier in the month has left her sidelined at the moment, count on Brown to make a quick return to the race scene in 2019!

With an abundance of amazing events and talented athletes in our community, there are undoubtedly many noteworthy performances that have inspired us not highlighted above. For these, we look forward to seeing what rises to the top in 2019.

Coming Up


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 in Kailua Bay and 3.9-mile run on Alii Drive. A shorter LavaKids Pea Wee course featuring a 200-yard swim and 1-mile run is also available for everyone. For more information contact Peaman at 938-2296.



Team Mango Races will host the Journey-2-LaLa Land hill climb for cyclists and runners at Lako Street across from the Chevron Gas Station. 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

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