PASSING BY— Aaron Rose, right, overtakes Bryant Hammond on the second leg of the Stroke'n Croak triathlon, held last Sunday in Nome.

Hammond leaves others in his wake during 2016 Stroke-n-Croak

Bryant Hammond relied on his strong swimming and running backgrounds to establish a lead that no individual racer could overcome in Sunday’s annual Stroke-n-Croak Triathlon. He completed the 1-mile swim, 4-mile run and 8-mile bike in 1 hour, 32 minutes, 33 seconds.

Hammond, a competitive swimmer in high school and college, used the fastest swim split of 24:18 minutes to build a 7 minute, 22 second first leg cushion over second-place finisher Matt Culley. Hammond ran the Lake Michigan Trail Marathon last September, and used his expertise in that sport to increase his lead after the second section by turning in the third fastest run split of the day at 30:49.

Culley was a participant in the Ironman 70.3 New Orleans triathlon last April, and knew he could make up time on his bike. By cruising the course in 29:16, he trimmed Hammond’s 11 minute, 8 second lead to 2 minutes, 58 seconds. He was the only person at the event to break the 30-minute mark on the bike leg. Culley’s overall time was 1:35:31.

“I wish the bike and run would have been longer, because really, the (length of the) swim favors swimmers,” said Culley after his first Stroke-n-Croak. ”You give me another 48 miles on a bike, and I catch everybody,” he added.

“Dude, one more mile and you catch me,” responded Hammond.

Race organizer and Nome-Beltz High School swim coach Kirsten Bey reported that 23 people participated in this year’s Stroke-n-Croak. There were nine teams and six individuals racing. The top individual female was Shanna Moeder, who completed the race in 1:43:51.

The fastest overall Stroke-n-Croak time of 1:29:00 went to the team of Liz Korenek-Johnson, Aaron Rose and Mallory Conger. Korenek-Johnson’s 28:04 swim time set the pace for women.  She and Hammond were the only racers out of the water in under a half hour. The third fastest swim split of 31:00 was turned in by Bey, who lent her efforts to four teams.

Korenek-Johnson contributed her swim time to two squads. Tyler Johnson joined forces with his wife to set the second place team mark with a time of 1:38:45. The third-fastest team was formed by Bey, Greg Finstad and Jackie Hrabok-Leppäjärvi, who finished in 1:40:16.

Rose overcame a 3 minute, 46 second deficit in the first half of his run, passing Hammond about a mile north of Icy View. His run time of 27:36 topped all other competitors. Finstad, who completed the run in 29:50, was the only other racer to cross the line in under 30 minutes.

The youngest female in the event was 14-year-old Mallory Conger who preserved her team’s lead by finishing the bike course in 33:20. Her split was the third fastest overall, and second fastest for females behind Moeder, who biked the course in 32:35.

The youngest overall racer was 14-year-old Shiloh Trowbridge, who is in Nome visiting his aunt and uncle. He teamed up with Deb Trowbridge and had the fourth fastest run time at 34:35.

“The beauty of Stroke-n-Croak is people can show up and build a team at the pool, and it works great,” said Korenek-Johnson, who is a parent of a swim-team member and has been a lifeguard at the pool for 23 years. “I did this race as a kid with my parents.”

After 32 laps in the pool the racecourse proceeds with a running segment that follows the Nome-Teller Highway to the Nome Recreation Center. The bike portion returns to the high school along the same route, and heads back to the finish line at the Rec Center. Korenek-Johnson says she remembers a time when the run segment followed the Center Creek Road and the transition from run to bike, as well as the finish line, occurred at the old Nome Elementary School or Old St. Joe’s.

    Bryant’s 2016 Stroke-n-Croak victory comes on his second try in the event. He said this race is unique because in most triathlons the bike segment comes after the swim, not after the run. The logistics of having the pool out of town, and a finish line at the Nome Recreation Center necessitates this order.  “I don’t like bikes,” he admitted after the race. “This is the first time I rode a bike since two years ago, since the last time I did it (the Stroke-n-Croak).”

While Hammond rode a conventional 26-inch mountain bike, not all of the bikers did. Culley rode a thin-tired triathlon-specific bike. Moeder also rode a thin-tired bike, but hers had only one, fixed gear. Johnson rode his new 29-inch, full-suspension mountain bike, while  Hrabok-Leppäjärvi was on her new 27.5-incher. Misty Leccese got around the course in 33:39 - the third fastest women's time – on a bike with 4-inch wide tires. Meg Woehler used a touring bike, and pulled her two young children Thomas and Ruth along the route in a bike trailer.

Longtime pool director and swim coach Sharon Keeney believes the race was established in 1983, and that it has taken place every year the pool has been open.

Bey says this race is a fundraiser for the Nome Swim Team. She thanked her volunteers, the Nome Swimming Pool and the Nome Recreation Center for their support.

“All of our teams in Nome have to work really hard to earn their money for uniforms and travel,” said Korenek-Johnson.  “So, having this (race) be unique to the swim team, because it incorporates the pool, I think is really cool.”

The Nome Nugget

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Nome, Alaska 99762

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