Local athletes splash and dash to glory

The third and final event of the Ogier Stroke and Stride series took place last Wednesday.

As the longest and most challenging event in the series, the final promised to bring out the best in the athletes competing. It would also decide the outcome of the overall series titles, with the overall titles still up for grabs in all divisions.

Judging on the first two events, it would be tough to unseat defending men’s champion Marius Acker, who held a narrow two point lead over Johan Heath going into the final event. Acker had been swimming very well and is known as one of the fastest runners on island, making him exceedingly hard to catch.

In the women’s division it would also take a very strong performance to prevent Lizzie Haines from taking the overall title. Haines managed to dominate her division in the swim and hold off all challengers on the run during the first two events.

Among the teams, the question was whether the longer swim would give the teams featuring top local swimming talent like Seiji Groome and Andrew Smiley enough of an advantage over Jasper Mikkelsen to allow their runners to hold off a charging Dave Walker on the run.

As the 117 starters churned up the water off Sunset House, the field stretched out quickly, with Groome establishing a narrow lead over Smiley and Matthew Courtis following in third. A small group formed behind them, containing overall contenders Acker and Heath, with a flying Mikkelsen not far behind. Mikkelsen was supposed to be taking it easy before an upcoming Ironman race, but he certainly did not look like he was relaxing out there.

Groome maintained his lead to the end of the swim, exiting ahead of Smiley and Courtis. However, with his usual runner, Beth Schreader, off island, it was not a certainty that the team would hold on to second position on the podium. Acker, Heath and Mikkelsen exited the water close together, with Andrea Killam being the first woman out of the water, handing over to her husband for the run. Haines led the way for the individual women again, with Rabie following hot on her heels and Pam Travers not far behind.

The longer swim meant that the runners were more widely spread out on the route, and it certainly assisted the stronger swimmers in holding off the chasers. Acker fought valiantly to hold off a charging Walker, but had to capitulate as Walker charged across the line to claim a third win for team One Speed.

Acker managed to hang on for second overall and first individual male home. Heath managed to claim his third consecutive second place finish, but it was a close call as Dean Gaffigan was snapping at his heels, finishing only three seconds behind in third.

Haines cruised through the race unchallenged, finishing almost two minutes ahead of second placed Emily Davies, whose strong running carried her past Rabie, who had to be content with third.

The second team home was Cajun Hound Racing, with team runner Bill Edwards making good on the hard work put in by swimmer Smiley, with team Wet and Wild coming in third.