They Turned Out For Steve Tarpinian

A 25-year-old pro from Colorado Springs, Alexander Libin, won it, in a record time of 1 hour, 52 minutes and 56 seconds
Jean Mellano, center, the late Steve Tarpinian’s life partner, did the relay in his memory with Natalie Penny and her son, Jeremy. Jack Graves

The Mighty Hamptons Triathlon, to be named hereafter for its late director, Steve Tarpinian, who died recently at the age of 54, attracted a large field to Noyac’s Long Beach Sunday, a 700-plus field that included a former Ironman champion, John Howard, and several Mighty Hamptons winners of the past.

A 25-year-old pro from Colorado Springs, Alexander Libin, won it, in a record time of 1 hour, 52 minutes and 56 seconds. The Iowa native was first out of the 1.5-kilometer bay swim, in 18:50, covered the rolling 40K bike course in 58:16, and ran the 10K in 33:35.

The past year hadn’t been a good one for him racing-wise, Libin said, in part because of a bacterial stomach infection that had required a heavy dose of antibiotics to kill.

He readily agreed when his interviewer said his record win here ought to raise his spirits considerably.

“Especially when you consider that your time was better than Dave Scott’s,” this writer said before John Broich, a Sag Harborite who’s been doing these triathlons since 1984, reminded him that the run in 1982 was 10 miles rather than 10 kilometers.

The women’s winner — and 24th over all — was Danielle Sullivan, 39, of West Islip.

As aforesaid, many that day were there to honor the memory of Steve Tarpinian, including the 68-year-old John Howard of Encinitas, Calif., who was second to Dave Scott in the inaugural Mighty Hamptons event in 1982, Pete Slattery, the 1988 Mighty Hamptons winner, who did a relay with Tom Nordland, Gerry Cassell, other Mighty Hamptons veterans, Jim Bolster, who won here in 1985 and ’86, and Mike Trunkes, the 1999 champion.

Howard’s 1982 Mighty Hamptons team, which included Jeremy Penny and Steven Schmidt, led the relay list with an overall time of 2:04:31 — the day’s second fastest. The triathlon’s runner-up, Shawn Faurot, 36, of New York City, covered the course in 2:05:40.

Eddie Stern, 50, of New York City and North Haven, finished fourth, in 2:09:25, David Powers, 48, of East Hampton, was 11th, in 2:12:20, and John Broich, 54, of Sag Harbor, was 21st, in 2:15: 54.

“My goal?” said Broich in answer to a question. “My goal is to do 30 more of these.”

Jean Mellano, Tarpinian’s life partner, who has written a book about the late internationally known swim coach, triathlete, and triathlon promoter, did a relay in his memory with Natalie Penny, the swim coach of Tarpinian’s triathlon team, and Natalie Penny’s son, Jeremy.

Mellano, who walked the 10K, crossed the finish line with arms upraised in the company of a large group of Tarpinian’s friends.

One of them, Merle McDonald-Aaron, who oversees the Robert Aaron Memorial Montauk Triathlon, and who walked the 10K course with Mellano, said, “I hadn’t been here for 13 years, but I wanted to come today. . . . It’s great to see the turnout. I hope it means a turnaround for triathlons,” whose registrations had fallen off of late, she said.

Chris Pfund, one of those who has taken over the EventPower company that Tarpinian oversaw, recalled that he and Tarpinian had helped Howard with his School of Champions running and cycling clinics in the past.

“John rode Steve’s bike,” he said. “Jean gave it to my son Brian, and Brian loaned it to John.”

Recalling Tarpinian, Pfund said, his voice catching, “Steve was a good friend . . . he was able to connect with so many people on so many levels. He was a good friend to so many people. . . .”

“It’s a shame that he died,” Pete Slattery said in a separate conversation. “We definitely all came out for him. We all used to train together up the Island, the year round. There was a photo of us in The New York Times. . . . He did so much. This triathlon was a mess when he took it over [in 1993]. He brought it back. I just hope they keep it going — I wish them all the luck. Filling Steve’s shoes will be a big task.”