Kevin Sellers trailed briefly during Saturday’s 2013 Aukeman Sprint Triathlon, as brief as it takes to slip on a pair of shoes.
Sellers came out of the 750-meter swim at Auke Lake in third place before taking the lead faster than his competitors literally could tie their shoes or clip into their bikes, and won the fifth annual race with a course record time of one hour, 2 minutes and 25 seconds.
“I think I need a puke bucket,” Sellers said at the finish. “I was chasing Scott Jones’ time from last year. I wanted to make the 1:01s. When I saw the clock, I was a little frustrated and I wasn’t sure.”
Sellers dove over the finish line and tumbled in the grass as fans cheered his new record, just eclipsing Jones’ mark of 1:02:31.
Sellers’ time could have been a second faster as it appeared he was already tumbling in the grass before the clock ticked off.
Jennifer Watson was the fastest female with a time of 1:14:53, roughly two minutes short of the record set by Jamie Bursell last year (1:12:32) and Kristin Jones in 2010 (1:12:42).
Watson was emotional as she sprinted the final 50 yards to the finish.
“It was really exciting,” Watson said. “I never expected that. It was a wonderful surprise. I was just very happy.”
Watson and runners Kim Rivera, Cathy Tide, Melissa Worden, Christine Ligocki and Sandra Woods had completed the Calgary Ironman 70.3 (1.2 mile swim, 55.9 mile bike, 13.1 mile run) on July 28. They had been training since November.
“I wasn’t sure I could do a race so soon after that,” Watson said. “The group said it would be fun to continue the fun another week. I signed up for Aukeman on Wednesday.”
That group of women, the Kooketts, has been part of Tracy Rivera and John Bursell’s triathlon training class since its inception and has competed in every Aukeman.
“I just never expected to win,” Watson said. “It was just really neat. It is really neat to see how much the women improve each year and all the new faces in this triathlon and how much triathlon has grown in Juneau.”
Weather Potdevin was the first athlete out of the water, just ahead of the first male swimmer, Jimmy Busch, and Sellers. Rounding out the top 10 swim times were Stephanie Walden (12:34), Daniel Strong (12:35), Eli Powell (12:40), Cathy Tide (12:57), Rick Slater (13:06), Brian Smith (13:23) and Justin Neff (13:23).
Sellers was past those two and streaking out of the University of Alaska Southeast parking lot on his road bike before many of the competitors had left the Auke Lake waters.
Sellers posted the fastest bike split, covering the 19-kilometer (11.2-mile) out-and-back to the Mendenhall Glacier Visitors Center in 0:28:03. Rounding out the top ten bike splits were Smith (30:30), Neff (30:42), Tom Thompson (30:48), Jim Ustasiewski (31:04), Mark Neidhold (31:04), Justin Dorn (31:19), Aaron Morrison (31:32), Ryan Bischoff (31:43) and Reed Stoops (31:50).
Sellers added the seventh fastest 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) run time of 0:19:12 for a comfortable margin at the finish.
Chuck Platt was credited with the fastest run split of 16:55. James Steeves (18:17), Matt Callahan (18:24), Ali Arthur (18:45), Smith (18:56), Jon Stearns (19:02), Sellers, Richard Lam (19:44), Eric Hinkel (19:48) and Morrison (20:01) round out the top 10. Arthur is in the 14-17 age group and Steeves in the 18-19 division.
Jamie Bursell was on pace to smash her old record time, making up her swim time by overtaking Potdevin during the bike route and becoming the first female, and 12th overall onto the run portion.
Bursell faltered on the trail, however, and finished with 1:16:20, third for women.
“Someone yelled out that she was 40 seconds ahead,” Watson said of Bursell. “I thought that was a way too much time to make up. I found her on the run and we said ‘hello’ and ‘good job’ and I just kept running on.”
For record-setter Sellers, his past two weeks have included daily “Mock-Aukes,” swimming in the lake and simulating the race.
“I am happy with the time,” Sellers said. “What I did all winter long to train was climb Mount Jumbo every other week, post-holing the whole way. There are a good group of athletes that want to go out and do those things in this town. The sweetest thing about this place is that triathlons offer a diverse amount of challenges here and a lot of people want to tackle those challenges.”
When asked what his recovery food will be, Sellers said, “I work at the brewery.”
Top 10 overall finishers were Sellers (1:02:25), Smith (1:06:38), Neff (1:08:56), Dorn (1:09:54), Morrison (1:10:06), Ustasiewski (1:10:31), Eli Powell (1:11:00), Arthur (1:11:12), Thompson (1:11:57), Daniel Strong (1:13:00), Neidhold (1:14:04), Bischoff (1:14:31), Dan Robinson (1:14:39), Watson (1:14:53) and April Rezendes (1:15:23).
The Aukeman Sprint Triathlon was first run in 2009 and is Juneau’s first-ever open-water triathlon. The participant number has grown every year, thanks to the efforts of race coordinators Tracy Rivera and John Bursell. Rivera started triathlon camps before the inaugural Aukeman event to prepare athletes for out-of-town competitions. The popularity of the classes led to the Aukeman in Juneau.