Monday, July 19, 2004


Women's champion Jenna Yancey received hugs from Mark Geoghegan and John Akana at Kapiolani Park yesterday.

Sanders, Yancey
win Tinman titles

James Kotter crosses the finish line
first but has his title taken away
due to an infraction

Friends and competitors alike are certainly on James Kotter's side.

Kotter, who crossed the finish line of the Tinman Triathlon first yesterday, was disqualified due to an infraction regarding his number tag. Jeff Sanders, who placed second, wound up with the Tinman title.

"He finished about 20 seconds ahead of me. I feel like protesting. That's no reason to DQ James," Sanders said of the infraction, which occurred in transition from swim to bike. "It was chaotic and dark. You really couldn't see anything."

Sanders crossed the finish at Kapiolani Park, on Kalakaua Avenue, with a time of 1 hour, 38 minutes and 22 seconds. The win in a sprint-style triathlon certainly wasn't easy.

"As you get older, you get better at longer distances. Today was all about speed. You couldn't go fast enough," said Sanders, 35. The Lahaina resident has competed in four of the past eight Tinmans.

Tai Blechta and Andrew Sause were neck-and-neck for second. Both finished in 1:41:05, with Blechta in second place, officially.

"I never saw Kotter," said Joe Abel, who finished fifth. "He was probably first out of the water, first on the bike. He led all the way."

Sause, 25, is relatively young in a sport dominated by 30-somethings. The Tinman was the first triathlon for the Navy man.

"I'd love to do the Ironman next year," said Sause, who took up triathlons two years ago. The former water polo player will be deployed soon, eliminating any possibility of entering this fall's Ironman.

Abel took fourth, just a fraction of a second behind Blechta and Sause at 1:41:34. Chris Larson placed fifth at 1:42:33.

Abel, who will be deployed by an Air Force unit out of Hickam, is content with the fact that he won't be able to compete in the Ironman.

"I'm 38, and I've got a wife and kids," he said. "You hit a peak in your 30s and start slowing down."

Rounding out the top 10 were Doug Perry (1:44:14), Cliff Rigsbee (1:45:19), Steven Beck (1:45:32), Donald Koslowsky (1:46:39) and Billy Wong (1:46:57).

Rigsbee, 50, is a training partner of the women's top finisher, Jenna Yancey, a former Atlanta resident who crossed the line in 1:48:26, edging Katherine Nichols (1:48:57). Tanya Bettis (1:51:08) placed third, and Jennifer McTigue was fourth (1:52:02).

"Besides the (early) rain shower, I couldn't have asked for better conditions," said Yancey, a former track and cross country runner at Auburn University. "I prefer harder conditions."

She was fourth out of the water, but passed Bettis, Nichols and McTigue in the bike race. The route went from Kapiolani Park to Hawaii Kai and back. The run, 10 kilometers (6.2 miles), began at Kapiolani Park, extended to Kahala, and back around Diamond Head to the finish at Kapiolani.

Yancey, 30, returned to Honolulu last week after going to her grandmother's funeral. Jane Cochran was one of Yancey's biggest supporters.

"It's been hard to focus. It was really emotional today. Even during the race, I had a hard time focusing," Yancey said. "I learned so much from her. I gained so much strength from her. She always cheered me on, even though she didn't know exactly what this triathlon business was all about."

Yancey took a week off from training to join family back home, but the time off didn't hurt her performance.

"I guess sometimes a little rest helps," she said.

Having top-notch peers helps, as well.

"Cliff (Rigsbee) and Ed Letourneau helped me so much," she said. "Cliff is doing his 20th Ironman this year. It's hard for me to find people to train with. They keep me from getting too intense."

Yancey won the Lavaman on the Big Island last year.

"You know, every course is different, and the competition level is different here," said Yancey, now in her fourth year of triathlons.

Next up for her are the ITU World Championships, where the top six qualify for the Nationals. There will be no Ironman for her this year.

"Three of the championships are in three weeks, all here," she said of her decision to focus on the shorter races.

Last year's Tinman began at Ala Moana Beach Park. This time, triathletes began at Queen's Beach, practically in the shadow of Diamond Head. The change created quite a stir for weekend warriors.

Not too long after the elite racers clocked in, fans welcomed a steady stream of finishers.

Matt Miller, 29, competed in his first triathlon, finishing in about 2:19.

"The water part was easy. On the run, my legs got Jell-O-ey," he said.

Leland Nakakura, better known as the guy who does cartwheels at the finish line, completed his 20th Tinman.

"I do it for fun and to motivate our other guys," said Nakakura, one of 15 members of the TriMoving Hawaii club that participated. "It keeps my body and mind healthy, and there's great camaraderie."


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