The Navy men’s triathlon team took the gold medal in the Armed Forces Triathlon Championships held Saturday, June 23, at Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu.
The top two finishers were from the Army, but the Navy took the next several spots and garnered the gold medal.
In the women’s competition, Capt. Kathy Rakel of the Air Force took first place for the third year in a row. The next several spots also were won by Air Force women, assuring them of the gold medal. The Marines took silver and the Navy took bronze.
The top six finishers from the men’s and women’s competitions will go on to the Military World Championships Aug. 22-26 in Switzerland.
The Armed Forces Triathlon Championships consist of a 1,500-meter (approximately one-mile) swim, 40-kilometer (24.8-mile) draft legal bike ride, and 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) run.
Army 1st Lt. Nick Vandam finished first in the men’s competition with a time of 1 hour, 45 minutes, 30 seconds.
“The toughest part of this triathlon?” he said. “Racing these guys. Everyone is stepping it up. All competitions are getting faster and faster.”
Vandam finished third last year but was recovering from surgery for an ingrown toenail.
“I remember I had to get bigger shoes,” he said, smiling at the memory.
The first aid tent was busy this year. The first to enter — right after the swimming race — was Hospital Corpsman Rolando Mantilla, competing for the Navy in the open category.
“The water was too fricking cold,” he said. “It got into my inner ear canal. I really wanted to finish but I couldn’t stand up.”
He was soon joined by a Marine, a Canadian and an Air Force competitor, all felled by winds on the bike course and suffering road rashes.
“There was a solid wind on the bike,” Rakel said.
She admitted to being “thankful and happy” that she won the race, especially after passing out cold three weeks ago at a triathlon.
“Today I needed to see how my body would handle it, and I felt fine,” she said. “I gave it a good effort today, and now I’m going to give my body a rest.”
Several competitors collapsed at the finish line, including Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Sam Dannenbring, who said he ramped up his run in the last quarter mile to pass up the seventh- and sixth-place finishers, guaranteeing him a spot in the Military World Champions next month in Switzerland.