After winning the Sprint division of the Bass Lake Yosemite Triathlon last year, 16-year-old Illi Gardner, a native of Great Britain, returned June 4 to win the Olympic womens division while John Savage, 29, repeated as the top male triathlete.
Gardner, who finished with a time of 2:27:07 in the 1500 meter swim, 40k bike (24.9 miles), and 10k run (6.2 miles), said it was the first Olympic level triathlon she ever attempted.
“It was really good,” said Gardner, a cross country runner and resident of Palo Alto. “The course is just great, and I had a ton of fun. I didn’t really expect to win but this turned out really well. I’ll be back.”
Gardner set a blistering pace for the women’s division, as she gained a five-minute lead over second place finisher Sharley Simpson in the swim and added 11 more minutes in the biking portion.
Savage, 29 from Piedmont, repeated as the Olympic overall men’s champion with a time of 2:09:12, after a time of 2:12:50 last year.
“That got pretty challenging there at times,” said Savage, who finished ahead of AJ Reid, who repeated as the men’s silver medalist. “But I love this course, that’s why I keep coming back. It’s a beautiful area and there’s really no other course like it.”
Robert Lyle won the Sprint triathlon with a time of 1:08:56, besting Aaron Orndorff at 1:09:48 and James Hickson at 1:10:28.
“We had a great time, it’s beautiful out, the water was perfect, I mean nothing could have been better,” said Lyle, who won the Sprint triathlon last year. “Overall, I expected this to be a wonderful race day and it definitely was.”
Walkers win Sprint mixed relay
In the team relays, Team Walker (Mx12), comprised of Mark Walker, wife Sarah, and 13-year-old son Kaden scored a win in the Sprint mixed relay at 1:26:58, squeaking by the Beerlievers and their time of 1:27:14.
“I think we did really good,” said Mark Walker, who, along with Sarah, graduated from Yosemite High School in 1997. “Kaden did really great on the run.”
“That’ll make up for my terrible swimming,” joked Sarah, who swam the 500 meters in 15:43, while Mark biked in 44:15 and Kaden ran the 3.2 miles in 25:17. “But it was a lot of fun and we’re glad we made it here.”
Other relay team winners included Sisters On The Fly, 3 Old Guys, 3’s A Charm, and Team Gap.
Telian’s finish second and fifth
Don Telian, 55, and his 15-year-old daughter Chloe, who lost a month of training due to illness, did well in the Sprint triathlon. Chloe finished second in her age group with a time of 1:30:27 behind Rian Hepner’s 1:30:05.
“Now I’m just a little worried that I didn’t try hard enough because I’m not sore,” Chloe Telian said. “I loved doing it with my dad and having a couple friends that were racing also. The vibe of the place is a ton of fun.”
“Having our times so precisely measured makes it official - she’s in better shape than me,” laughed Don Telian, who finished with a time of 1:40:37. “I placed fifth in my age group and beat last year’s time by almost 10 minutes, so I was pleased with that.”
In the 5k Poker & Go Fish Run/Walk, nobody could catch up to 12-year-old Morgan Nygren, who blew by all other competitors with a time of 18:40.
“There were lots of ups and downs, so it was tough,” said Nygren, a resident of Ventura County. “But I’d say this is one of the best races I’ve ever done.”
Stefan Herkewitz, who finished as the top male competitor in the 5k with a time of 22:42, said he almost didn’t compete since he and his wife Lauren Fulton didn’t get into town from Los Angeles until 1 a.m., mere hours before the 7 a.m. race start.
“It’s pretty funny, I didn’t even want to do it but she pushed me out of bed,” chuckled Herkewitz, 28, who was bested by Fulton and her time of 22:30. “But I think it was worth it. We love this area and any chance we get to come see family and spend time here, we’ll take it.”
More than 500 racers participated in the triathlon, which officials with Tucson Racing, the event’s host, said was about a 20% increase from last year.
Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau CEO Rhonda Salisbury said the event is very beneficial for area businesses and she is glad to see it be such a success each year.