Mighty Hamptons Triathlon to Be Named for Steve Tarpinian

“The pioneer of triathloning on Long Island”
Steve Tarpinian, an internationally known swim coach, was frequently the first out of the water in triathlons here.

The life of the late Steve Tarpinian, a triathlete, swimming coach, and triathlon promoter whom his life partner, Jean Mellano, has described as “the pioneer of triathloning on Long Island,” is to be celebrated at Sunday’s Mighty Hamptons Triathlon at Noyac’s Long Beach.

Among the celebrants, she said, will be John Howard, the 1981 Ironman champion and world-record ultra cycler, who was among the 10 or so world-class triathletes (Dave Scott, Scott Tinley, Dave Horning, Julie Moss, Allison Roe, Jody Durst, and Mark MacIntyre among them) who helped Ray Charron and Ambrose Salmini launch the Mighty Hamptons event here in 1982.

Other top-notch triathletes expected on race day are Mike Trunkes, the Mighty Hamptons winner in 1999, Tom Meehan, Steve McKnight, Tom Nordland, Pete Slattery, the 1988 champ, Gerry Cassell, Jim Bolster, who won here in 1985 and ’86, and Magdalena Stovickova Krine, the women’s champion in 2002, ’04, and ’05.

The seminal race would have lapsed, Mellano said, had not Tarpinian and his EventPower company taken it over from Southampton Hospital in 1993.

“From now on,” Mellano said during a telephone conversation this week, “it’s to be known as the Steve Tarpinian Memorial Mighty Hamptons Triathlon. . . . I’ll be walking the 10K this year as part of a relay honoring Steve [who died this past year, at 54, a victim ultimately of depression]. My swimmer, Jeremy Penny, is one of the many young athletes Steve coached over the years, and our biker will be his mother, Natalie, who coached Steve’s triathlon team.”

Mellano, who recently sold EventPower to Chris Pfund of Montauk, Vicki Ventura, and Christina Fatsis, “so that his vision will be kept alive,” has asked that Tarpinian’s friends walk the last mile of the race with her.

She will also give out awards in her late life partner’s memory to the male and female with Sunday’s fastest swim times. Thereafter, she said, the Steve Tarpinian fastest swim awards would be given out at each EventPower triathlon.

“He was an extraordinary athlete,” Mellano said in answer to a question. “He swam competitively at Chaminade High School and Stony Brook University, and went on to become an internationally known swim coach. . . . He finished 18 Ironman events, 17 consecutive Maui Xterra championships, and EventPower laid the groundwork for multisport on Long Island.”

Yet, despite his love of athletics, and athletics’ concomitant “joyous vision,” episodes of depression increasingly assailed him, said Mellano, who has written a book that is yet to be published about Tarpinian, whose goal, she said, was “to get a conversation going about this disease.”

“He was so outgoing and friendly, and very successful . . . he sought help, he tried different things . . . depression is very prevalent, though, as in the case with cancer in the past, it’s not talked about. The last six months of his life were very difficult. . . . It could happen to anyone.”

The chief executive officer of Xterra, Tom Kiely, had offered help in promoting her book, which, once the illustrations are done, she hopes to have for sale at the Xterra championships in Maui on Nov. 1, Mellano said.

Scott Tinley, a two-time Ironman winner, she said, would offer a quote about Tarpinian for the book. Joe Friel, a well-known endurance sports coach, wrote the forward. Another world-class triathlete, Chuck Sperazza, who has won triathlons here numerous times, has said of Tarpinian, “He was the best friend I had in the sport of triathlon and one of the best in my life. We both had a passion for the sport, but he made it fun.”

“Steve was to me and countless others an inspiration. I remember telling him how proud and amazed I was that he was able to turn his passion into a successful lifestyle while the rest of us had to put on a suit and tie and take the train to the office.”

“While we did that, Steve traveled the world doing what he loved and helped so many people along the way. Swim fast up there, Tarp. As usual, I’m way behind you — in a wetsuit.”