Also unique to the event, is the fact that the Canadian military sends a strong contingent down each year as well. Normally this race is the qualifier for either the World Military Games or CISM. Unfortunately, being an off year from CISM (only held every four years, always the year before the Olympiad, the next being in Mungyeong, South Korea in 2015) and no country willing to host the World Military Games for triathlon, this race was strictly for Service Branch pride.
Navy men returned as defending champs with a very strong team. Air Force men were looking to take back the title they had two years ago. Army and the Marine Corps had solid men’s teams as well with athletes who could potentially make an impact on the final results. Air Force women also returned as defending champs, but with individual defending champ, Kathy Rakel (Air Force) absent, as she is now a full-time professional triathlete and having left the Air Force. The men’s defending champ, Nick Van Dam (Army), part of the Army WCAP, was unfortunately also absent from this year’s race due to his current deployment overseas. Two men’s former champions, however, would be in attendance, Derek Oskutis (Navy) and James Bales (Air Force) and in the mix. Another possible contender would be Nick Sterghos (Army, WCAP, 2nd last year). Coaches from both the Navy and Air Force knew the competition would be so close that they even looked up the rules for a tie-breaker.
The scoring for the event is done similar to cross-country: displacement scoring, whereby as each athlete finishes they receive a point value equal to their placement. Each team brought 10 men and 6 women and scoring went to 7 deep for the men and 4 deep for the women. The tie-breaker was the 8th place person. Your top finishing athletes’ scores are tallied and the lowest point total wins.
All personnel arrived on-site Wednesday to acclimate to weather and time zones changes as athletes and their service delegates came from all over the world including as far away as the Czech Republic and Germany. Strangely, Pt. Mugu was in the midst of a heat wave of sorts and curiously absent was its usual “May Grey” and “June Gloom”. Thursday and Friday were filled with various team activities including group rides to familiarize themselves with pacelining with their teammates, swimming in the 60 degree Pacific Ocean, and a Social Ice Breaker to introduce each team’s members and have the opportunity to catch up with old friends and meet new ones.
Saturday morning arrived and fortunately, the heat wave broke, June Gloom appeared, and the weather was 60 degrees, marine layer overhead, and light winds. Normally the race is at 1030 after the citizen’s Admiral’s Cup Sprint Triathlon, but due to sequestration, all other Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) events at Naval Bases Ventura County were cut. This allowed the AFTC to slide earlier to a 0900 start. The course was a 2 loop inverted triangle swim of 750m each, 4 loop ride of approximately 5.5 miles per loop with 6x 90 degree turns per loop and pancake flat, and a 2 loop bowtie (double out and back) run course that was also nearly pancake flat. This format was definitely spectator friendly and allowed coaches to give feedback to their athletes. The National Anthem was at 0855, men start at 0900, and women at 0905.
Right from the gun, Tommy Brown (Navy) and Oskutis took the lead in the swim, with Sterghos, Bales and all the other 80+ men following behind. Oskutis (21:18) led Brown by :03 out of the water, followed by Sterghos :56 back, and Bales 1:39 in arrears. Out onto the bike, the Navy duo of Oskutis and Brown built up a lead of 1:30 over the 1st chase pack of 5 including Sterghos, Bales, Nate Dressel (Army), Brad Pigage (NAVY-USCG), and Ken Corigliano (Air Force). Then came the 2nd chase pack of 4 men 2:28 back of the leaders led by Cam Loos (Navy), then Sean Sullivan (USMC), Mike McFerron (USMC), and Ian King (NAVY-USCG); however the 2nd chase pack was nearly eaten up by the 3rd chase pack consisting of top biker Brad Williams (Air Force, 52:02) and 6 others. After that came the 4th chase pack of 8 men 3:33 down on the leaders, the 5th chase pack of 6 men 5:01 down, and the rest of the field scattered in smaller groups and soloists.
Onto the run, Oskutis took the lead and it looked like it was just a question of whether or not he could hold off runner supreme, Sterghos, sitting in 6th, 1:35 back, with Brown, Bales, and others packed in bwtween. For the team competition, Navy and Air Force had the top 20 packed full of their two teams with Army and a Marine or two to break up the action. As Sterghos ran through the field, Oskutis had a :50 lead at mile 5, when a cramp took him to a standstill. Sterghos, Bales, and Brown passed before Oskutis could begin again. This ended up being the finishing order with Sterghos (top run of 32:27) taking gold at the 2013 AFTC in 1:49:21. Bales earned Silver :36 back, and Brown took Bronze :59 back. For the team title, the men came sprinting in back and forth between Air Force and Navy. Navy placed 3-4-8-11-12-13-14. Air Force placed 2-6-7-9-10-15 through their top 6. For their 7th and final spot, the race’s self-proclaimed elder statesman, Greg Price (USMC) just outran Kidd Poteet (AIR FORCE) for 16th place. Poteet’s 17th place adding to the team score gave Air Force 66 team points and gave Navy the 2013 AFTC Men’s Team Title. Don’t worry, Poteet is moving to Aviano, Italy in three weeks for three years and will quickly forget being outsprinted by Price!
2013 AFTC-Men’s Individual (1500m swim, 22.5mi bike, 6.05mi run)
Gold-Nick Sterghos (Army), 1:49:21
Silver-James Bales (Air Force), 1:49:57
Bronze-Tommy Brown (Navy), 1:50:20
2013 AFTC-Men’s Team
Gold-Navy, 65 points
Silver-Air Force, 66 points
Bronze-Army, 130 points
4th-USMC, 167 points
For the women’s race, similar to the men’s, it was filled with both veteran’s such as Colleen O’Connor (Navy, previously Air Force) and youngsters such as Sam Morrison (Air Force, 8 months removed from her Kona debut as an Air Force Academy Senior, and 3 days after graduating from the Air Force Academy). O’Connor led all women out of the water (24:06) followed by Morrison :37 back, Thuy Mi Dinh (USMC) :51 back, and Stephanie Hightower (Army) 1:55 back to have all four branches represented in the top four. The women’s race is slightly different than the men’s, especially on the bike course, as the field is almost half the size. This created many smaller groups of twos and threes and many more soloists.
O’Connor remained off the front into T2 with an :08 lead over Jolene Wilkinson (Air Force, top bike of 58:39, and defending World Military Master Woman) and Rachel Beckmann (Navy-USCG). Out onto the run course, Morrison started in 7th place, 2:14 down on O’Connor. However, her top run (37:59) trumped O’Connor at the finish to give her Gold 2:07:39 at the 2013 AFTC, O’Connor held on for Silver 2:58 back, and Beckmann holding on to Bronze 3:36 back. For the team title Navy women won Gold by the narrow margin of 2 points and completed a Military sweep by placing 2-3-9-10.
2013 AFTC-Women’s Individual
Gold-Sam Morrison (Air Force), 2:07:39
Silver-Colleen O’Connor (Navy), 2:10:37
Bronze-Rachel Beckmann (Navy), 2:11:15
2013 AFTC-Women’s Team
Gold-Navy, 24 points
Silver-Air Force, 26 points
Bronze-USMC, 41 points
4th-Army, 54 points
Apologies to any Canadians or anyone interested in their results. They were not included in the US Military scoring, their results are completely separate, and not enough information was given to formulate any in-race tactics or results. The Canadian contingent, however, had many competitive racers and outstanding finishes.
Full US Military results and Canadian Military results.
All competitors were particularly grateful to be able to participate in this unique competition, especially with sequestration. It was an opportunity for all service members to take pause for a moment from their Duty and Mission to Country and shake hands both before and after competing against fellow servicemembers in an exciting, fast, and fun competition.
Sub-9 IM. Navy SeaBee deep sea diver. Can Do!