As the countdown begins toward next month’s Hawaii Ironman World Championships on Oct. 12, one would have anticipated a larger crowd for Sunday’s Peaman International Biathlon and LavaKids PeaWee races.

However, it just so happened there were two other events calendared on the same day like the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Nice, France, and the Run for Hope 10K &5K at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai.

Nonetheless, for those who did participate in Sunday’s Biathlon, it was competitive as ever with two new victors claiming the overall crowns in both the LavaKids PeaWee division and the longer course Peaman Biathlon.

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“It feels good!” said Riley Bergin after winning her first LavaKids PeaWee race, consisting of a 200-yard swim and 1-mile run, in a time of 15 minutes and 12 seconds. “I mean I had no idea that I would be first, but I just feel really good.”

Bergin, who is a fourth grader at Parker School in Waimea, said she has been swimming with the Academy Swim Club’s silver team under coach Sarie Imonen. Her progress paid off during the somewhat choppy 200-yard swim.

“I knew I was ahead because I couldn’t see anyone in front of me but I also knew that there were others right behind me,” said the 9-year old who also participates in soccer, cross country and aerial silks. “So I was kind of pushing it a bit because I wanted to stay in front, and when I did get out (of the water) I felt good. When I started the run, I was a little out of breath at the first part, but I regained my breath and I kept doing it.”

Bergin’s father, Ben, added that having his daughter practice pacing also helped.

“We’ve been practicing pacing because she is a swimmer and a lot of it is ‘go this distance, and I’ll go as hard as I can at that distance and then I’m done,’” he said. “Whereas when you do something like this, you kind of have to say ‘OK, I’ll push this hard in the swim so that I have some left for the run.’ And we’ve also been practicing breathing when we get out of the swim to calm down so that we can run easier.”

Another big influence and inspiration on young Bergin’s progress has come from her athletic grandmother, Wendy Minor.

Minor, who is more affectionately known by her granddaughter as “tutu” and by everyone else, the “Queen of Xterra,” holds an incredible nine-age group XTERRA World Championship titles, and a jaw-dropping 28 Ironman triathlon finishes, 15 of which were from the Ironman World Championships in Kona, just to name a few among the many accolades she accumulated in her athletic career.

“She’s a big influence on me,” said Bergin who recently competed in the kids Xterra Aquathon last month. “It’s because she is a ‘Mega Triathlete’ who helped me get started in swimming and really supports me.”

Six-year old Cole Henderson was first in the PeaWee boogie board division with his time of 13:46, with 4-year old Emily Braswell winning the PeaWee swim race on a boogie board in a time of 11:31. Jack Brewster was the first to blaze across the finish line in the 1-mile run-only race in 9:30.

In the competition for the “big kids” featuring a ¾-mile swim and 3.9-mile run, Kailua-Kona’s Levi Childers won his very first Peaman Biathlon in a fabulous time of 47:41, while JC turner and Peaman claimed the next two spots with their times of 51:56 and 53:26 respectively.

“Oh my gosh, I just can’t believe it,” Childers said shortly after crossing the finish line. “It’s like out of the deep blue. I barely did much swimming over the summer and I just started running cross-country, and then I came here and got first place. I am like, excuse me? Is this for real?”

Childers, who swims with the Kona Aquatics age group team and currently home schooled through Acellus Academy, said he didn’t expect on winning after gaining some weight from a family summer vacation visiting the Czech Republic, Germany and South Korea.

“When I came out of the water and saw Peaman, I just concentrated on getting my shoes on,” said the 14-year old freshman. “When I began running out, then I began to think that I might be the first full distance person in this race. And after the turnaround I saw that no one else was in front.”

A finned Lori Montgomery took gold in the women’s race with her time of 1:05:54, while Bianca Lindsey and Elizabeth Bernstein finished nearly together with their times of 1:09:29 and 1:09:31 respectively.

In the run-only 3.9-mile race, Kailua-Kona’s famous canine, Buddy, and his human companion, Bill Culhane, won in a fabulous time of 39:37. Duke Becker claimed the top spot in the ¾-mile swim with his time of 19:25, with a finned Archer (swim) and Alec (run) Ankrum sweeping the Split Pea relay division in 45:55.

Childers said he expects to compete in many more Peaman Biathlons in the near future.

“It’s just the joy. It’s a register free event and you can do it however you want, and however fast you want. It’s just pure joy.”

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