Eickelberg First To the Lighthouse

Brierley and Cebulski topped the 19-and-unders
The finish line was at the foot of the historic Montauk Lighthouse. Jack Graves

   Babylon Bike Shop co-workers Tom Eickelberg, 23, and Ryan Siebert, 21, who are also sponsored by PowerBar and Western Beef Racing, placed first and fourth in Sunday’s sprint triathlon that ended at the foot of the Montauk Lighthouse, where the exceedingly well-informed M.C., Terry Bisogno, greeted them.
    It was a repeat for Eickelberg, who won this race last year too.
    The winner’s time was 1 hour, 3 minutes, and 43 seconds. He arrived about a half-minute late to the swim at Gin Beach, and had to work his way through the field, dodging splashing feet. He said afterward that he preferred the longer Olympic distances to the sprint ones.
    “I have beaten him,” said Siebert, though not on that day. Siebert, who lives in Patchogue — Eickelberg lives in Babylon — will compete next in the national age-group championships in Burlington, Vt., on Aug. 18. His mother, Denise, won the female 55-to-59 division that morning, in 1:27:46.
    Michele Henschel, 29, of Long Beach, a former pro who frequently trains with Eickelberg and Siebert, was the women’s winner, and 18th over all, in 1:13:09. “I’ve been out camping at Hither Hills — I love it out here,” she said. “It’s my fourth time. I’ve always been second — this is the first time I’ve been first. I feel vindicated!”
    The swim had been tough, the current had been choppy, she said. As for her swimming, biking, and running, Henschel said she thought she was “about equally strong in all of them.”
    Rod McClave, of New York City and Water Mill, who recently won, as usual, the three-mile Swim Across America race in Gardiner’s Bay, scorched the swim, exiting the water in 9:58, but did not proceed farther, having sustained gluteus muscle pulls. “It was my fifth race in the past two weeks,” he said at the foot of the hill leading up to the finish line. “Obviously, I overdid.”
    David Powers, of New York City and Wainscott, who won this race in 2007 and ’09, was hampered too, by recent bike crashes — the first at the Robert Aaron memorial triathlon in Montauk in June and the second after hitting a pothole along the Napeague strip. The first one had banged up his left side, the second one his right.
    “But even at my peak,” said the 45-year-old Full Throttle Team competitor, “I wouldn’t have been able to beat Tom.”
    He had, said Powers, been debating whether to do the race at all, “but it’s so beautiful out here.” Despite his aches, which apparently slowed him particularly on the 3.1-mile trail run, he placed third, in 1:06:00.
    An amputee, 29-year-old Tom Koehler of Hampton Bays, a New York City police officer who lost a leg as the result of being shot in 1998, placed 37th. “I don’t swim with my legs, just with my arms,” said Koehler, who used an aerodynamic cycling leg on the 14-mile bike. Questioned further, Koehler said he swam three times a week, and ran and biked twice a week. “I hope to qualify,” he said, “for the world paratriathletic championships in London next year. . . . They don’t call us disabled athletes anymore — they call us paratriathletes.”
    Among the other top finishers were Justin Kulchinsky, 39, of East Hampton, whose Mayfair Rocks was one of the major sponsors. He finished 13th, in 1:11:26. Jim MacWhinnie, a 40-year-old Southamptoner who almost died a few years ago when a fuel oil tank he and his father were moving out of the basement fell on him, was right behind Kulchinsky, in 1:11:31. Tom McGlade, 48, of Amagansett, was 20th, in 1:13:24, and Bill Garry, 53, of Montauk, was 23rd, in 1:13:57.
    East Hampton High School was well represented by Thomas Brierley, 16, and Dana Cebulski, 15, who topped the 19-and-under age groups.
    Thomas’s father, Craig, said his son, who placed 21st over all, in 1:13:46, “did really well. Aside from the elites, he was faster than all the age groups. And he was on a cruddy bike.”
    Other young local triathletes there were Teague Costello, Amanda Calabrese, and Abby Roden, among others. Costello had to run the last two miles of the bike leg, one of his tires having flatted.
    The elder Brierley, who said at the finish line that “after 45 it’s a matter of survival — at least in my case,” is one of those who helps Sharon McCobb (the winner in the 45-to-49 female division, in 1:25:53) coach the I-Tri girls, a group of teenage triathletes from the Springs and Montauk Schools who, had it not been for the program, begun several years ago by Theresa Roden, would have been couch potatoes.
    That program has spawned McCobb’s Youth Triathlon, which is to be held Sunday morning at Maidstone Park in Springs. Brierley said a run-through, open to all kids who plan to do the race, will be held at Maidstone this evening at 5. The distances are a 300-yard swim, a 7-mile bike, and a 1.5-mile run.
    “It’s tough, it’s tough when you push it — and I pushed it today,” said Rafael Ruiz, one of a number of athletes who train under John Conner at the high school track on Monday and Wednesday evenings. Brierley agreed.
    “Because the distances are shorter, it’s harder. There’s nowhere to rest . . . which is fun.”