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Triathlon: Steiskal, Sullivan triumph in Jamesport race

Jamesport Triathlon 071016

It can be said that the second annual Jamesport Triathlon was bigger, better and faster than the first.

Here’s some evidence: The winning times for the male and female winners were both considerable improvements from last year.

Tim Steiskal of Brookhaven did his part. A runner-up finish to Billy Holl of Bayport in last year’s race didn’t sit well with Steiskal, who resolved to do something about it. On Sunday morning, Steiskal, chased by Eric Florio of Williston Park and Holl, pushed himself hard to become the first athlete to cross the finish line at South Jamesport Beach. A step or two after that, Steiskal collapsed onto hands and knees and vomited.

“I gave everything I had in there,” Steiskal said. “I didn’t care how bad it hurt. I wanted that win.”

Steiskal won in 1 hour 6 minutes 29 seconds, which topped the winning time of 1:10:25 that Holl clocked last year.

The course started with a 500-meter swim and was followed by a 25-kilometer bike ride and a five-kilometer run. A supreme effort was necessary for Steiskal to hold off Florio, who Steiskal called one of the best sprint triathletes in the nation, and Holl.

Florio was the first swimmer to emerge from Peconic Bay in 6:50. Florio and Steiskal then cycled some distance between them and the dangerous Holl. The two traded the lead on their bikes before Steiskal pulled in front for good, zipping ahead of Florio on the final turn into the beach before making the transition to the run.

The swim and bike phases of a triathlon are Steiskal’s strengths. “For the run I just hang on for glory,” he said.

Steiskal said he told Florio before the run, “This is where the fun starts.”

Both knew that Holl is an excellent runner. Holl turned in an impressive run, clocking 15:55, the best time of the day, but it wasn’t enough to catch up to the two leaders. Florio finished second in 1:06:52 and Holl was third in 1:07:25. Mike Merlo of Cutchogue came in fourth in 1:10:17.

Danielle Sullivan missed last year’s Jamesport Triathlon, but made up for it on Sunday. The West Islip resident was the first woman out of the water in 8:25 and never relinquished her lead. Her winning time of 1:14:16 smashed the 1:20:11 time of last year’s women’s champion, Caitlin Dowd of Smithtown.

The calm, overcast weather may have helped.

“No sun, no wind,” Sullivan said. “Perfect.”

Sullivan may be new to the Jamesport Triathlon, but she is not new to winning races.

“She’s an amazing athlete,” race director Corey Roberts said. “She’s won a lot of races, not only on the island, but off the island as well.”

The next woman to hit the finish line was Christine Grippo of Locust Valley (1:18:43). Patti Thorp of Cutchogue (1:20:09) took third. She was followed by Jill Loveland of Long Beach (1:20:33) and Suzy Heffernan of Cutchogue (1:20:45).

Roberts said 420 athletes registered for the triathlon, as compared to 290 last year, and this year’s race was sold out by the middle of June.

“Just to complete a race, I think, is something special,” said Florio. Pondering the image of Steiskal on hands and knees, Florio said, “That’s how everyone should look” after a race.

Steiskal paid a price for what he said was his best victory in a long time, but he wasn’t complaining.

“If you want something bad enough, you’ll take your body there,” he said. “It’s all about heart.”

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Photo caption: Athletes hit the water in Peconic Bay for the start of the second annual Jamesport Triathlon. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)