Editor's Note: Because of incorrect results in Sunday's final results of the San Luis Obispo Triathlon, Kevin Cooper was listed as the men's winner and new record-holder. Cooper did not win the men's triathlon. The men's winner appears to be Tulare's Eric Blaine, who finished in 1 hour, 11 minutes, 9 seconds. The Tribune will have an updated story on this as soon as possible.
Few if any have ever celebrated like Lawrence Ng. None have sped like Kevin Cooper.
Ng, a four-time participant in the San Luis Obispo Triathlon, crossed the finish line of the 34th annual running of the swim, bike and run at Sinsheimer Park on Sunday acting out a Shakespearian gamut of whooping and hollering.
Ng introduced himself, shouting out his name and entry number along with the trackside announcer as he approached the tunnel into SLO Stadium. Then he stopped to jump and stretch toward the sky to bask in the glow of another mission accomplished.
“It’s a lot of hard work for one moment,” said Ng, a 15-year San Luis Obispo resident who works at Running Warehouse. “So, crossing that finish line is kind of the culmination of everything coming together, all the preparation emotionally, physically, mentally. All that excitement comes from just being here in that moment, not worrying about what’s coming up and what’s happened and hasn’t happened, and just being at the finish line.”
For Ng, the triumph was personal, resuming the race after a two-year hiatus.
For Cooper, 53, one of the top returnees in an event bereft of any previous overall first-place finishers, the race was historical.
The San Luis Obispo resident finished the half-mile swim at SLO Swim Center, 15-mile bike down Orcutt Road and 3.1-mile run along the Railroad recreational trail and over the city streets and sidewalks in 1 hour, 2 minutes, 16 seconds.
It was nearly two minutes faster than the previous course record set by seven-time first-place finisher and former collegiate national club champion Chris Stehula, who finished in 1:04:05 in his most recent performance in 2011.
Cooper shaved more than 15 minutes from his previous time, a 1:17:49 mark that made him the 10th-fastest man in last year’s event.
In the past 12 years, Cooper had finished among the top 10 men five times. His previous best was a third-place finish in 2003 in 1:12:25.
The fastest woman was former San Luis Obispo High volleyball and water polo player Kendall Perrine. The 23-year-old Cal Poly graduate and part-time lifeguard at Sinsheimer completed the triathlon in 1:20:15 in just her third try in the event.
Having trained with the Cal Poly triathlon club like Stehula, Perrine thought it would be cool to win her age group. Being the top overall woman was not a goal.
“It’s definitely a big accomplishment for me,” Perrine said, “and it just shows me that all my hard work has paid off. It’s definitely my stone. I’ve never come in first before, so that would be really cool.”
Approximately 1,100 participants took part in the event, according to race director Rich Ogden of the City of San Luis Obispo Parks and Recreation Department.
Geared for triathlon newcomers and welcoming to repeat participants, the SLO Triathlon stresses completion over competition, and that spirit was evident from the finish line.
Children regularly joined parents for the final leg of the race, crossing the finish line to the cheers of dozens of spectators.
Michelle Shoresman, a program manager for the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department, crossed the line accompanied by 5-year-old son Payton, and celebrated with an emphatic double high five.
Like many participants, the SLO Triathlon was Shoresman’s first foray into the sport. She went on to compete in a full-length Ironman event but took time off to have a child.
After three years away from the SLO Triathlon, she was so happy to return that upon finishing her race as an individual, she went back to the pool for a swimming leg for a relay team.
“My favorite thing about this race is just how cool and chilled out it is,” Shoresman said. “I love seeing people with the baskets on their bikes out on the course and people riding their crazy cruiser bikes and mountain bikes. Then there are some people with their triathlon bikes all decked out. It’s great for all ability levels.”
San Luis Obispo firefighter Todd Gailey felt satisfied with his race. Developing into a perennial high placer, the 35-year-old former Morro Bay High multi-sport athlete was the first man to cross the finish line, even though his time was surpassed by participants whose start times were staggered later in the day.
Gailey was so excited to break the invisible tape in 1:16:46, he sprinted full speed through the finish and careened into the stadium seats aligning the baseball field.
“I don’t think I had any strength left to stop,” Gailey quipped, “the momentum carried me.
“But I’ve never got to be the first finisher in the morning. Usually Stehula takes it every year, and I don’t have a chance with his times.”
Atascadero High junior varsity swimming coach Ali Bickel, the first woman to cross the finish line, knew her time of 1:32:58 would not hold up, but she joked it would put her on a path to unseat her father Mike’s triathlon legacy.
“My dad has done two Ironmans, so I need to beat him at something,” Bickel said. “I just wanted to have fun. I’m happy I finished.”