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Connolly Stays On Straight and Narrow

Tue, 06/11/2019 - 16:49

Sprint triathlon to the Montauk Lighthouse set for July 21

Matthew Connolly would have three-peated had he not taken a wrong turn in the run last year.
Jack Graves

The 37th Robert J. Aaron Memorial Triathlon in Montauk Saturday was won by Matthew Connelly, 25, of New York City, who made sure this time to go out first on the 10K run, the final leg of the three-leg event, content to let the pace car lead the way.

It would have been a three-peat for Connelly, who also won in 2017, had he not in chasing down a competitor last year taken a wrong turn, an error that added, he thought, about two miles to his run, and resulted in a 13th-place finish.

Connelly, “10 pounds lighter than last year,” covered the course, comprising a mile-long lake swim, 20-mile bike, and the aforementioned 10K, in 1 hour, 51 minutes, and 14.2 seconds. (His splits were 21:57 in the swim, 49:22 in the bike, the fastest of the day, and 37:37 in the run.) 

When this writer showed him a story he’d written about his 2017 win, which listed his time as 1:56:44.4, the winner said, “Wow.”

For a time, Merle McDonald-Aaron, the race director, thought Connolly’s was a record-breaking performance, but later remembered that Ryan Siebert of North Patchogue, now in the armed forces, had done a 1:48:42.6 in 2014.

So the men’s record stands, as does Laurel Wassner’s 1:53:25.3, which she did in winning Montauk outright in 2011 — the first and only time a woman has won there in the contest’s 37 years.

A record that McDonald-Aaron would rather not have set this year had to do with attendance. Around 400 registered and 313 finished. In 2011, by contrast, there were 765 registrants and 605 finishers.

“Too many races,” McDonald-Aaron said when asked to account for the reason why. The relatively low turnout — hardly a car was parked along West Lake Drive’s shoulder, as in former years — will mean less money for the race’s primary beneficiary, the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research, and for its other beneficiaries, the St. Therese of Lisieux youth group, the Montauk fire police, its ambulance squad, and the East Hampton Town Police Benevolent Association.

Connolly said he had made sure to go out first on the run not only to avoid a wrong turn, but also to keep ahead of a fellow Full Throttle teammate, Michael Conroy, a native of Australia who he knew was “an incredible runner — I was afraid he’d run me down.” Conroy’s 37:20 was the day’s fastest 10K. 

Conroy crossed the finish a little over a minute and a half after Connolly — after which they hugged — but a contestant in the third swim wave, Andrew Gyenis, 24, of Herndon, Va., who had started 10 minutes after the elite wave, was ultimately to claim the runner-up spot, edging Conroy 1:52:54.1 to 1:52:57.7.

The top six were rounded out by the defending champion, Tim Steiskal, 29, of Brookhaven (1:55:12.2), Michael Poole, 27, of Albany (1:56:29.7), and William Kelly, 56, of Chatham, N.J. (2:00:01.0), who won Montauk in 2009 and obviously is still going strong.

Steiskal, who at one time last year was riding the crest of eight straight triathlon wins, has “a first, a second, and now a third [fourth once Gyenis’s time was reckoned] this season. I’ll be doing the Lighthouse Triathlon in July, and Mighty Hamptons and MightyMan in September.” 

The women’s winner, in her fifth attempt, was Nadine Crane, 41, of Blue Point, a longtime triathlete and mother of two, who is a special education teacher — and former swimming coach — at East Meadow High School. 

“This was the first race I ever did, in 1999,” she said. “I was third out of the water and passed the others on the bike and kept the lead on the run.”

When this writer said maybe she was getting better as she was getting older, Crane smiled and said, “I haven’t been training much . . . maybe that’s the secret.”

Among the participants from here were Mike Bahel, 52, fifth in the 50-54-year-old group in 2:22:16.1; Evan Drutman, 55, in 2:23:10.4; Nicholas McMahon, 25, in 2:24:18.4; Peter Hodkinson, 40, in 2:24:37.3; M. Holland, 53, in 2:32:33, and Angelika Cruz, 49, in 2:33:08.5, the top two in the women’s 50-54 division. 

Annalina Kazickas, 30, in 2:33:11.0, second in the women’s 30-34s; Craig Brierley, 53, in 2:33:20.0; Drew Harvey, 22, in 234:35.8, eighth in the men’s 18-24 division; Tim Treadwell, 53, in 2:46:38.4; Walter Cook in 2:47:03.4, John Barylski, 63, in 3:01:34.8, and Sarah Reilly, 38, in 3:39:15.5.

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