Tri The Kenai

Training partners win community athletic affair

“Go runners” was shouted often from the volunteers station during the fourth annual Tri The Kenai triathlon at Skyview High School Sunday.


Participants gathered at the school early for mandatory meetings and mark their bodies with their race numbers.

The first leg of the race began in the Skyview pool where racers waited for the buzzer.

Gretchen Kraus, registration coordinator, said 214 racers signed up for the triathlon that included a 500 yard swim, 10 mile bike leg and a 5 kilometer run for adults and a 100 yard swim, 4 kilometer bike leg and a 3 kilometer run for youths aged six to 14.

Aside from individual participants in the race, there were seven adult teams and four youth teams.

“(Teams) are a good way to get someone into the sport,” Kraus said.

Before the swimming competitions began Anchor Point resident Kristen Presley eagerly watched other competitors through a spectator window above the pool.

“It is my first triathlon,” she said.

Nervous to be watched Presley said, “I am not the perfect swimmer. It is a first of many things.”

Her participation in this year’s triathlon has been planned for a while.

“It was a goal I set four years ago, finally I said ‘I’m gonna do it and stick to it’,” she said.

Presley, a special education bus attendant, said she trained throughout the winter at the Homer Pool and on her treadmill and bike trainer at home. more recently, she was able to get outside to train.

“I started when the snow started melting on the trails,” she said.

Having met her goal of participating in the race, Presley said she was proud of her achievement.

“I want to show myself I can do it,” she said. “I will make sure and finish”

Anchorage resident Kameron Perez-Verdia also set a goal this summer, which included participating in the race.

“This year I wanted to do triathlons,” he said, explaining he also participated in last weekends Eagle River triathlon.

Perez-Verdia said the two triathlons have prepared him for the Iron Man half marathon in July. Last year’s goal for the Anchorage School Board member was to run the Big Wild Life Runs marathon in Anchorage.

“With marathons, they are so large,” he said. “There is less of a feeling of community. Triathlons are more of a community experience. I’ve been very surprised how warm and welcoming everyone ”

Perez-Verdia was happy to have his parents and two young daughters in attendance to watch him meet his summer goal.

“It is amazing,” he said. “I want them to see me do this because I hope it will encourage them to be active.”

For the mens and womens overall race winners triathaloning is a family affiar. Womens overall winner Amber Stull and mens overall winner Jens Beck watch each other’s kids while the other family trains for racing. Stull’s daughter, herself a budding athelete won her race Sunday. Spreading her love for the triple-event sport to her extended family, Stull said that her mother and sister began training for triathons this year as well.

“It’s a small community,” Stull said.

Lanie Hughes, volunteer coordinator for the race, said nearly 100 volunteers signed up to help out for the event.

She said most volunteers are family members of the youth participants or those who have raced or are interested in racing.

“Every year I lose a couple volunteers because they want to race,” she said.

Those who volunteer their time helped as bike traffic control, timers, bib checkers, lap counters and as security.

Hughes became involved as a volunteer when the race began four years ago. For Hughes, the triathlon experience began when she turned 40.

“It was just to get into shape,” she said, adding that she had more time on her hands since her two children were more independent.

She was encouraged by a friend to become a triathlete.

“She said ‘you should try a triathlon, you already run, bike and swim a little, you can do it’,” Hughes said.

So she began training and has participated in 50 races, usually five a summer and hopes to Tri The Kenai in the future.

“I am hoping to do it next year,” she said.

Hughes sat beside the tent where volunteers could grab a snack or drink to keep them going through the morning.

“I’ve never worn shorts doing this job before,” she said, “The weather is great.”

As onlookers cheered under the intense sun, Wasilla resident Pam Winders finished the race first in her age group. She has been in the race the past thee years and although Tri The Kenai is one of many races she is participating in this summer, she said it defiantly stands out.

“I love this race,” she said. “It was fun.”


Sara J. Hardan can be reached at


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