08/03/14 1:36pm
08/03/2014 1:36 PM
Tim Steiskal of Brookhaven hamlet has now won all three Riverhead Rocks triathlons. (Credit: Bill Landon)

Tim Steiskal of Brookhaven hamlet has now won all three Riverhead Rocks triathlons. (Credit: Bill Landon)

For the third year in a row, Tim Steiskal of Brookhaven won the Riverhead Rocks Triathlon Sunday.

At exactly two hours, seven minutes, the 24-year-old dominated the field, winning by more than five minutes over second-place finisher Bradford Strater, 32, of New York City.  (more…)

07/14/13 9:51am
07/14/2013 9:51 AM
DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO | Shawn Fitzgerald of Cutchogue took the lead with about a half-mile to go and held it to the finish line for his first triathlon victory.

DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO | Shawn Fitzgerald of Cutchogue took the lead with about a half-mile to go and held it to the finish line for his first triathlon victory.


The thing about competing in a triathlon is an athlete may not always know when a competitor has his sights set on him.

For example, Ryan Siebert of Patchogue might have felt good about his chances of winning the 15th annual Mighty North Fork Sprint Triathlon on Sunday morning when he passed last year’s winner and the first person to complete the opening swim phase, Rod McClave of New York City, during the eight-mile bike ride. But, lo and behold, with about a half-mile to go in the three-and-a-half-mile run, Siebert himself was passed by Shawn Fitzgerald of Cutchogue, who won the whole thing.

The 39-year-old Fitzgerald, a runner-up last year, clocked a time of 50 minutes 23 seconds at Cedar Beach in Southold. Siebert came in second at 51:01.

“I thought I had it,” said Siebert, who was chasing what would have been his third Mighty North Fork title.

Some may have wondered where in the world Fitzgerald came from. The 28th athlete to complete the 500-meter swim in Peconic Bay, Fitzgerald had a lot of ground to make up. He clocked the sixth-fastest bike time of 18:04, but the running phase is when he made his greatest gain. Running, Fitzgerald said, is his strength, and it showed. He produced the second-fastest run of the morning, 20:55, to run away with his first triathlon victory.

“I can’t swim, but I can run,” said Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald, who sliced nearly a minute off his time from last year’s race, said he was pleasantly surprised with his win. “It validates all the hard work behind the scenes, so it’s a tremendous feeling,” he said.

Siebert has had to deal with some adversity recently. In addition to tending to ankle and knee injuries, he said he was clipped a couple of weeks ago by a truck while training on a bike.

“I’ve had a rough month,” he said.

Perhaps it threw off his training a little. Then again, don’t discount Fitzgerald’s late kick. “I turned around and didn’t see him,” Siebert said, “and then, all of a sudden, a half-mile to go, he just flew by me.”

Benjamin Pucci of Seaford moved into third place in 51:38, ahead of Mike Merlo of Miller Place (52:06).

DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO | Jenn Place of New York City won the women's race for the fourth time in six years.

DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO | Jenn Place of New York City won the women’s race for the fourth time in six years.

Jenn Place, 39, of New York City is making a habit of winning the women’s race. She triumphed for the second year in a row and the fourth time in six years, turning in a time of 55:13.

“This is such a short race, you just have to go hard from the beginning,” Place said. “You can’t pace yourself here. There’s no time for that.”

Pushing her the whole way was the second-place woman, Patti Thorp of Boston (56:08).

“Patti, she’s a tough competitor,” Place said. “I admire her very much. I knew she was right behind me and I know how strong she is.”

Kelly Pickard of Oyster Bay (1:00:02) was third and fourth went to Vicki Edwards of Mattituck (1:01:11).

Place had a couple of motivating factors. For one thing, she coaches triathletes herself.

“How can I tell them how to win if I’m not doing well?” she asked.

Another big motivator, though, was the fear that this might be the last Mighty North Fork Sprint Triathlon. Concern had been expressed over the Town of Southold permitting next year’s event from happening because of a town law prohibiting races by for-profit organizations.

“Knowing that this could possibly be the last time I get to do this race, I just felt like I really have to win,” said Place.

Corey Roberts, the athlete experience guide for EventPower Long Island, the organizer of the race, said, “There’s not a concern that it’s going to be the last year, but there’s definitely some work to be done on our permitting for next year.” He added, “I think the town’s going to see what kind of an event company we are.”

Roberts said the event is a boost to the local economy. He also said that a food drive by the athletes, as well as donations by Fairway Market, have brought over a pallet of food that will be provided to Community Action Southold Town. “It shows that the athletes have a genuine passion for the town and the event,” said Roberts.

According to Roberts, just under 600 athletes entered the race. Three hundred and ninety-four individual competitors completed it.

What was his assessment of this year’s event?

“Phenomenal,” he said. “Every year is a phenomenal year. We have a beautiful place to hold the event. I mean, it’s stunning.”

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DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO | Sean Hardick of East Northport showed his stroke during the 500-meter swim in Peconic Bay.

DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO | Sean Hardick of East Northport showed his stroke during the 500-meter swim in Peconic Bay.

06/30/13 10:14am
06/30/2013 10:14 AM

BILL LANDON PHOTO | Two-time Riverhead Rocks Triathlon winner Tim Steiskal speaks with the media after his victory in the race Sunday.

Tim Steiskal is making a habit of winning triathlons. Especially in Riverhead.

BILL LANDON PHOTO | Riverhead Rocks triathlon winner Tim Steiskal of Brookhaven as he crosses the finish line.

BILL LANDON PHOTO | Riverhead Rocks triathlon winner Tim Steiskal of Brookhaven as he crosses the finish line.

Steiskal, a 23-year-old Connecticut-native now living in Brookhaven, was the first athlete to cross the finish line Sunday morning at the Apple Honda Riverhead Rocks Triathlon. It was the second straight year he’s won the downtown event. He finished in 2:07.36, a full two minutes before second place finisher Stefan Judex of Port Jefferson, according to the official race results.


“It feels great,” Steiskal said afterward, a smile across his face on the overcast day. “I’ve been having a rough year. A lot of the races I’ve entered have been on really hot days. These were perfect conditions for me.”

Steiskal said having moved to Suffolk County in the past year — he’s now working as project director at the Patchogue YMCA — has made the Riverhead race even more special to him.

“A lot of the people I train came here to support me,” he said. “I work with a lot of young kids and it’s great that they came out today. That’s what it’s all about, to inspire the future generation.”

Steiskal said he’s not quite sure how many triathlons he’s won, but that he’s claimed more than a dozen in his young career, which has seen him compete in about 60 triathlons. His goal is to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Brazil.

“[Qualifying for the Olympics is especially] tough because they only take two [Americans],” he said. “I ultimately just want to be competing on that level.”

A more immediate goal for him is to run professionally by next year, a move that would allow him to compete in more races at no cost to himself.

BILL LANDON PHOTO | Meghan Newcomer was the first female finisher in Sunday’s Riverhead Rocks Triathlon.

Riverhead Rocks female winner Meghan Newcomer, 32, who placed sixth overall, knows a thing or two about turning pro. The New York City resident began competing professionally more than a year ago and she ran, biked and swam in Riverhead for the first time Sunday, finishing in 2:13.39.

“They did a great job with this,” Newcomer said. “It’s a good community race.”

Newcomer, a Kansas City native who moved to New York to attend grad school at Columbia University and now works as a research coordinator at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, has been competing in triathlons since 1999. A swimmer in high school, she took to the sport while cross training to rehab an injury.

Not only did she finish ahead of all the other females, three minutes ahead of second place  female Danielle Sullivan of West Islip, but she even hung with the best of the male competitors Sunday.

“It’s always fun to win,” she said. “I like to chase the boys. It’s always good to have someone to chase.”

Her long-term goal is to compete in a triathlon in all 50 states.

“I believe I have 12 more to go,” she said.

The top North Fork finisher was Ken Robins, 51, of Cutchogue, who crossed the finish line in 2:18.42, good enough for 13th overall and the top time of anyone over 50 years of age.

Not far behind him was David Gatz, who was the top Riverhead finisher for the second year in a row, coming in at 2:19.06

This year’s oldest competitor to finish was Ron Helin, 74, of Middle Island, who clocked 3:14.24. The youngest was 16-year-old Alex Pekoff of Bellmore, who finished at 2:53.59.

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08/18/12 10:22am
08/18/2012 10:22 AM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Tom Eickelberg of Babylon, completing the biking phase, went on to win the first Deep Pond Triathlon in Wading River.


What’s a little rain?

Well, it rained more than a little, even pouring at times during the first Deep Pond Triathlon on Saturday morning. But veteran triathletes like Tom Eickelberg, who have competed in conditions like that before, seemed to take it all in stride. Aside from adding some time to the run, Eickelberg said, the rain doesn’t make too much of a difference.

“It’s all part of it, and you just go,” he said. “It’s the same for everyone. You go home and all your stuff is wet as opposed to just the stuff you raced in, so it’s pretty annoying. You have a little more laundry to do and you have to take a little care of the bike.”

Before Eickelberg got to the laundry, though, he took care of business. Anyone looking for a pre-race favorite to win the Deep Pond Triathlon could have looked to Eickelberg, who said he hasn’t lost a race on Long Island in a few years.

Eickelberg maintained that fine record on Saturday. The 23-year-old Babylon man dealt with the rain and handily secured first place in a little over an hour in the Deep Pond Triathlon, which started and ended at the Schiff Boy Scout Camp in Wading River.

No one could say the result was a surprise.

“Tom Eickelberg is one of the best triathletes, I think, on Long Island,” the race director, Justin Schwartz, said. “He wins everything.”

Even the runner-up, Peter Ventura of Glen Cove, who finished more than four minutes behind Eickelberg, acknowledged that it would have taken a lot for him to upset Eickelberg. “I wasn’t expecting to catch him,” said Ventura, who figured he would have needed to turn in his best race, coupled with a relatively mediocre effort by Eickelberg, for the result to turn out in his favor.

It didn’t happen.

“Right now I’m undefeated in this race, which is cool,” joked Eickelberg, who will top his weekend off with a 10-kilometer race tomorrow in Babylon.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Patti Thorp of Boston hit the finish line 1 hour 15 minutes 19.02 seconds after the start to win the women’s race.

The rain didn’t have an impact on the opening 750-meter swim in Deep Pond, but it did present the possibility of treacherous conditions, with a 13-mile bike ride on slick pavement (including the old Northrop Grumman Airport runway) and then a scenic 3.1-mile run in woods around the pond, with muddy trails and puddles to navigate.

Ventura said he slipped and fell once during the run. No serious injuries were reported, said Schwartz.

Eickelberg said he took the lead on his fifth or sixth stroke of the swim. He never relinquished it. Both he and Ventura were the first ones to emerge from the water, heading to the transition area to get their bikes. The biking phase was where Eickelberg padded his lead.

“I just knew that I was going to bike as hard as I could and make sure that I have a nice cushion for the run,” he said.

Eickelberg ended up with a time of 1 hour 22.72 seconds. Ventura came in at 1:04:32.78. Andy Powell of Marcellus, N.Y., wasn’t too far behind Ventura, taking third in 1:04:50.37.

Two New York City athletes, Bucky Schafer (1:05:33.76) and Timothy Walton (1:06:16.09), claimed fourth and fifth, respectively. They were followed by Jose Lopez of Mineola (1:07:58.20), Robert Spina of North Massapequa (1:08:48.82), Nicholas Chester of Hauppauge (1:09:05.40), Michael Merlo of Rocky Point (1:09:32.75) and Samuel Holt of Brooklyn (1:09:41.62).

The triathlon started with four waves of athletes hitting the water for the swim. Patti Thorp of Boston was six minutes behind a wave of women who had started ahead of her. She passed them all somewhere along the way, though, and finished as the top female in 1:15:19.02.

About a mile and a half into the run, a volunteer told Thorp that she was the lead woman. “I was pretty shocked,” said Thorp.
Thorp, 54, had read material stating that the running course was hilly, and that concerned her because she is not a hill runner. She said that while she was running, “I kept thinking, ‘Where’s the hill?’ ”

As it turned out, the course suited her just fine.

Like Eickelberg, Thorp also won by a comfortable margin. The next two finishers after her in the women’s race were Tana Giraldo of Port Washington (1:23:51.97) and Jennifer Taggart of Saint James (1:25:50.03).

The fourth-, fifth- and sixth-placed women — Hallie Fitzsimons of Brightwaters, N.Y. (1:26:07.60), Kathryn Grassel of New York City (1:26:13.22) and Barbara Bencivenga of Nesconset (1:26:17.02) — finished within 10 seconds of one another. Stephanie Bree of Manorville (1:26:59.06) was seventh, Erin Devitt of Baltimore (1:27:07.41) was eighth, Stephanie Keilty of New York City (1:27:51.17) was ninth and Emily Suhey of Boalsburg, Penn. (1:27:59.65) was 10th.

Among local athletes, Lisa Kelly of Shoreham was 16th in the women’s race, and Michael Qualley of Shoreham was 26th in the men’s race.

Thorp took up triathlon 25 years ago. “The sport has grown a phenomenal amount,” she said.

Her triathlon career was put on hold for four years because of a variety of injuries. She returned to competition last year. Saturday’s triumph marked her second victory of the season. She also won a triathlon earlier this season in Islip.

“For me the accomplishment is now getting to the start line because that means I’m healthy enough to actually race,” said Thorp.

Schwartz, the race director, said 335 athletes registered for the triathlon. The results listed 219 athletes completing the event, which Schwartz expects to return in 2013.

“It couldn’t have gone better,” he said. “I think for a first-year event, considering the weather that we had, I think it turned out really well. The feedback that we’ve gotten from all the participants is very positive. They loved it.”

Not even the rain could put a damper on that.

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