CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL KONA AQUATICS PARTICIAPNTS!
The results from yesterday's Cinco de Mayo Ocean Race are in. Click here to view. Congratulations to all KONA Aquatics swimmers for participating and doing a great job (especially our little ones). See you all again next year.
By Rick Winters - West Hawaii Today
WAIKOLOA — The Big Island Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming kicked off on Saturday with the first leg of the summer series, the Cinco de Mayo Splash, held at Anaehoomalu Bay.
Hawaii Prep junior Aapo Eerola placed first overall with a time of 23 minutes and 24 seconds. His time was surprisingly, nearly three minutes off the first place time from last year. This was due to the fact that the 2017 course accidentally measured out to 1.2 miles instead of the usual 1-mile distance.
Eerola edged out Bodhi Whitmore (23:27) and Weylin Foo (23:31) in a close battle to the finish for the top three swimmers. Foo won the Cinco de Mayo Splash in 2016, which eventually led to a triple crown win as well in the male division.
In the race for top female, Maile Lawson veered off course after the turn for the second year in a row and this time it cost her as Karlyn Pipes beat Lawson to the finish line with an overall fifth place time of 23:45. Lawson finished just three seconds behind in sixth place overall.
Ku’uleionalani Patterson, last year’s triple crown winner in the female division, wrapped up the top three performances in the division with a time of 23:58, good enough for ninth place overall.
For Eerola, the Cinco de Mayo Splash was the high school distance swimmer’s first race in the open ocean, but the win did not surprise the young man from Finland.
“I knew I had a chance,” Eerola said. “It was a pretty good race, the water was clean, and there were no waves. The biggest challenge was dealing with the current pushing me sideways, but I just kept my head down, my eyes closed and went as fast as I could.”
In the women’s race, Lawson looked to repeat as champion but was having difficulties swimming with the lead pack. She then made a decision, which led to what she called “The Veer, Part 2.”
“I was swimming behind a group of people coming back and they were kind of criss-crossing and I got tired of it, so I went to the right of it,” Lawson said. “I was doing pretty well on the outside by spotting a large palm tree on the beach, but over the last 500 yards I put my head down and sprinted. I did not spot and the next thing I knew I was too far right and everyone on the beach was waving me to go left.”
Lawson, who is rarely in a bad mood after a race, was all smiles after finishing second in the female division.
“It was a fun race and I enjoyed it,” Lawson said. “I was able to race with teammates who had not competed in an open water race before and they did well, and it was good to see that. The conditions were also really nice.”
For Pipes, experience and strategy led the masters swimmer to victory, capping off a whirlwind of activity over the past two months. This was Pipes first overall female victory since 2011.
“I played the race smart and got in a fast group at the beginning, staying in the back of the pack and hanging on for dear life,” said Pipes, who knew she had a chance to win after the turn. “I saw that Maile had veered right coming back and we were even at that point. I realized I had a straight path and knew the course error would cost her.”
Pipes was back on the Big Island after a seven week adventure that spanned three countries and 14 U.S. states. The trip started with Pipes celebrating her 55th birthday by getting married on the Caribbean Island of Nevis.
Pipes then helped Special Olympic swimmers compete in the first Special Olympic relay channel crossing. The event took place between Nevis and Saint Kitts in the shallow two-mile channel named the Narrows.
Pipes wrapped up her trip with several swim meets in the pool, which culminated in the U.S. Masters Spring National Championship in Riverside, California. In her three swim meets on the mainland, Pipes set 13 new USMS National records, several of which she already owned.
“It was a long trip, but the thing that grounds me after meeting so many wonderful people and coming back to Kona, is getting back into the ocean,” Pipes said. “There are no walls, no lane lines, and plenty of interference. It is a scramble out there. You just have to keep swimming and pretty soon you are at the end.”
A total of 232 swimmers finished this year’s Cinco de Mayo Splash.
The next leg of the Triple Crown of Ocean Water Swimming will take place on June 17 with the Hapuna Roughwater Swim. The King’s Swim will wrap up the series on July 4.
The male and female who competes in all three races and has the fastest cumulative time, will be named triple crown winners. Last year. Patterson finished with a total time of 1:08:15. Foo was the fastest male at 1:08:21.
Lawson, who won both the Cinco de Mayo Splash and King’s Swim last year, will have a chance at the triple crown this year after missing the Hapuna Roughwater Swim in 2016 while racing for the U.S. in Fiji.
“Hopefully I will have a shot at the triple crown this year but we will see what happens,” said the modest Lawson. “I feel like I will do better next month at Hapuna, but anyone who swims their best deserves to win.”