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Army Triathletes Cop All-Service Gold, Lead U.S. Team to CISM Meet

By Pfc. Ty Stafford, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

FORT EUSTIS, Va., June 12, 2000 – Labored breathing, cramps, blisters and dehydration are all in a day's work for triathletes, and that's what awaited more than 80 competitors in the 2000 Armed Forces Triathlon Championship here June 3.

The supreme military endurance contest for both men and women consisted of a grueling 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike ride and 10-kilometer run. The top six men and six women comprise the U.S. team at the Conseil International du Sport Militaire (International Council of Military Sports) Championship in Sabaudia, Italy, June 11-16.

The Virginia Tidewater's 85-degree heat and high humidity didn't slow Army team co-captain Maj. Michael Hagen of Fort Jackson, S.C., who won his fourth consecutive title in 1 hour, 56 minutes and 1 second.

"It was a little hot out there on the bike and run, but everything went well," Hagen said. He led all the way crossing the line more than two minutes ahead of his closest competitor.

After assessing the competition, Hagen and co-captain Lt. Col. Mike Klingele of Eglin AFB, Fla., had high hopes and were confident the Army squad would be title contenders. "We have the deepest team ever, and the women look really strong this year," Klingele said before the race. Their confidence was rewarded: The Army team's 7:32:66 left the other services in the dust.

Army Second Lt. Scott Miller of Panama City, Fla., finished second in 1:59:17 to put a lock on the gold. Miller said he thought he was "way behind on the swim," but he caught three people on the bike and another two on the run to find himself in good shape.

Air Force triathletes Capt. Peter Ohotnicky, Whiting Field, Fla., and Lt. Col. Robert Fink, Bradley Air National Guard Base, Conn., placed third and fourth respectively with times exactly one-minute apart, 1:59:52 and 2:00:52. Ohotnicky and Fink were only seconds off Hagen after the bike event, but fell behind on the run after Miller kicked in during the last half of the run.

Ohotnicky, who placed 11th in the California Ironman Triathlon two weeks earlier at Camp Pendleton, Calif., was the strongest competitor for the Air Force, said Air Force team captain Capt. Spence Cocanour of Hanscom AFB, Mass. The Air Force won last year, and Cocanour felt before the race they could repeat.

"We have a lot of returning faces," he said before the race. "This is the highlight of the year, and we will step up to the challenge." The Air Force team fell short with a combined time of 8:21:66, followed by the Marines, 8:27:23, and the Navy, 8:30:44. The team times are determined by the finishing times of the first three men and first woman of each service.

Rounding out the men's CISM team in Italy are the fifth and sixth place individual finishers, Seamen Cyle Sage of Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla., and Gunnery Sgt. Steven Hazlett of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan.

On the women's side, Army Maj. Heidi Grimm, U.S. Military Academy, West Point, N.Y., won first place with a time of 2:14:29. Marine Capt. Karen Krajicek, 4th Reconnaissance Battalion, actually crossed the line first, but was assessed a two-minute penalty for blocking another cyclist during the race. Even with the penalty, Krajicek's 2:15:7.7 was good enough for second place ahead of last year's winner, Coast Guard Lt. Amy Barbeau.

"It has been a goal for the past year. I think it is awesome just being on the team and competing against all these top athletes," Grimm said of competing in her first triathlon championship. She said she felt intimidated going into the race, but now is confident she will do well in the world military championship.

Another first-time Armed Forces Championship competitor, Marine 1st Lt. Susan Stark, 2nd Force Service Support Group, Camp Lejeune, N.C., placed fifth overall. Before becoming a triathlete, she was a world-class swimmer and last year finished sixth in the 5,000-meter open water swim and in fifth as a member of the 2,000-meter relay team at the Military World Games, she said.

"I had done two triathlons before this and did fairly well," she said. Capt. Heidi McKenna, track coach at the Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colo., finished fourth and Air Force 1st Lt. Mayia Kraus of Langley AFB, Va., crossed the line sixth to round out the women's CISM team.

Triathlons are deeply rooted in the military, said Air Force Maj. Michael Buonaugurio of Beale Air Force Base, Calif., a 20-year competitor. "It was started by a couple of Navy and Marine guys in Hawaii and in less than 25 years has become one of the premier endurance events," he said.

The triathlon will be the first event at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. Buonaugurio hopes that with the success of the event and the world military championship, the sport will continue to gain momentum that carries it well into the decade. "Triathlons are a lifetime sport, the ultimate cross-training program," he said.

(Pfc. Ty Stafford is assigned to the public affairs office at Fort Eustis, Va.)

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