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Hooker shatters Whidbey Island triathlon record, again

Nearly 300 people turned out for the 17th annual Whidbey Triathlon Saturday.

Participants plied the waters of Goss Lake, cycled down country roads and pounded pavement to complete the 23.8-mile course through South Whidbey.

Judging by the smiling faces at the finish line at Community Park, most had a pretty good time.

“I had a blast,” said Everett resident Sam Wilson, a member of a three-person relay team. “I’ll definitely be back next year.”

According to Carrie Monforte, program coordinator for South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District, this year’s race saw a healthy turnout that neared event capacity.

A total of 209 people competed as individuals and 23 teams, numbering two to three strong, participated as groups, she said. In all, the final count tallied out at 276 competitors.

“It was a really good turnout,” Monforte said.

Top honors once again went to Kyle Hooker, a P-3 pilot stationed at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station in Oak Harbor. The winner of the 2012 triathlon — he set an event record — Hooker beat his time last year by 7 seconds with a lighting fast finish time of 1 hour, 21 minutes, 27 seconds.

“I had a really good swim and kept pushing hard,”  said Hooker, 25.

He added that cool temperatures helped during the run, which allowed him to keep a strong pace and secure his second first-place win in as many years.

Oak Harbor made an impressive showing overall. Fellow Navy pilot Scott Chuda finished fourth at 1:30:07.8, while 15-year-old Logan Clark’s 1:47:44.1 earned him 31st overall but second in the 19 and younger division.

Clark did very little training, cycling some and swimming even less. Still, he was confident he would finish the race.

“I knew I was going to complete it; I didn’t know I’d finish so high,” Clark said.

In the women’s division, regular Whidbey Island Triathlon racer Stacia McInnes, 45, made another strong appearance as the first woman finisher and 16th overall with her time of 1:41:13.8.

For relays, Team Phoenix slid into first with a finishing time of 1:42:18.6.

Others were only competing against themselves. Seattle resident Virginia Gomez, 32, was the last person to cross the finish line at 3:24:47.5.

A very happy Gomez, number 209, was proud of her time, saying she started training only three months ago. This was her first triathlon and she wasn’t too sure how she’d do.

“I’m just excited I finished,” she said. “I’ve come a long way. I think when I started I couldn’t run one mile.”

Monforte called the event was a success: It was fun for the community and attracted hundreds of visitors to South Whidbey. Of the 276 competitors, 75 percent were from off the island.

Many brought family and friends along and finding a place to stay for the night wasn’t easy, she said.

“We fill up the town pretty well,” Monforte said.

The event was a cash-raiser for the district as well, bringing in about $5,000 after expenses. Most of that money is added into next year’s budget to improve the event, but the proceeds aren’t the driver of the triathlon, Monforte said.

“It’s a program that benefits the athletes that participate,” she said. “It exists for them.”

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