BY MATT DEYOUNG
Rick Hammer had never been to Grand Haven prior to Sunday, but he’s eager to come back.
Hammer, 33, from Plainfield, Ill., passed Grand Haven’s Aaron Zuelke on the final run of the sprint duathlon to win that event in a time of 1 hour, 9 minutes, 49 seconds.
The sprint duathlon was one of several races held Sunday morning as part of the popular Grand Haven Triathlon and Duathlon.
“It’s a great course,” Hammer said. “This is my first time ever to the Grand Haven area, and it’s just beautiful. Biking and running along the waterfront, I really enjoyed it.”
Hammer went out fast — maybe a little too fast — in his opening 5K, then was passed by Zuelke on the bike portion of the race.
“Fortunately, I was able to catch him in that final run and was able to out-kick him on that final hill,” Hammer said with a smile. “I probably got out a little over my head in that first 5K run, but I did have a lead going into the bike, which is not my strongest suit.”
Still, Hammer prefers biking to swimming, which his why he stuck with the duathlon instead of tackling the triathlon, which requires participants to swim, bike and run.
“I really enjoy triathlons, but I’m a terrible swimmer,” Hammer said with a laugh. “I can stay afloat, but that’s about it. When I saw the swim was in Lake Michigan, I figured I’d do the duathlon and concentrate on my stronger aspects.”
Zuelke, 37, from Grand Haven, took second in the sprint duathlon at 1:10.08.
The female winner was Courtney Roberts, 32, who finished with a time of 1:27.09.
Winning the sprint triathlon was Joel Anderson, a Spring Lake native who got out of the water quickly, passed a few competitors on the bike portion of the race, then held off Grand Haven native Craig Alguire in the run.
“It was a good race,” Anderson said. “It turned out to be a nice day. The water was a little choppier than I expected, but it was a nice swim. The bike was nice, shaded, fast. Then in the run, I just hammered it out.
“I saw Alguire at the turn and didn’t know how far back he was, but I knew if I ran my splits fast, I’d be OK. But I new he was coming. It’s always hard judging how far back they are. But he was looking good, so I knew I had to keep the hammer down.”
Anderson finished with a time of 1:07.46. Alguire, who now lives in East Grand Rapids, took second at 1:08.50.
A pair of Grand Haven High School students also battled it out for top 10 spots. Austin Bessinger, 18, finished fifth with a time of 1:11.16, and James Calkins, 17, was eighth at 1:13.07.
Laura Zwiers, 28, was the top female finisher at 1:18.28. She edged out Audrey Ernst, 14, who was second at 1:18.53.
Grand Haven’s Aaron Venema, 19, used a tremendous swim to win the Olympic distance triathlon in a time of 2:07.51. He was nearly two minutes faster than 39-year-old Matt Smith, who was second at 2:09.39. Third was Benjamin Semeyn, 31, who came in at 2:11.62.
Amy Bross, a Spring Lake native, was the women’s winner. The 35-year-old Bross came in with a time of 2:25.37. She was almost 3 minutes faster than Anne Varner Clancy, 31, who clocked a time of 2:28.36. Amy Reynolds, 42, was third at 2:41.55.
A total of 103 athletes took part in the Olympic distance triathlon, while the sprint triathlon drew 197 participants.
Another 45 competed in the duathlon. In addition, three relay teams tackled the Olympic distance triathlon, and seven teams completed the sprint triathlon.
One of those relay teams consisted of three Grand Haven High School students. Two of those — Anne Danicek and Katie Gillissie — had completed the Seahorse Triathlon in Vicksburg earlier this year for their triathlon class at GHHS.
The third, Casey Murphy, was also a member of the tri class, but missed the race after coming down with pneumonia.
“The week before the race, I got sick, so I went with them and still cheered them on,” Murphy said of the Seahorse Triathlon. “So today we did a relay. Next time I’m going to try to do another one by myself, but it was good. I’m glad I got to do it.”