Naval Base Ventura County Hosts Armed Forces Triathlon

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By Tim Pompey

It’s a beautiful Saturday morning. Standing on a beach at Point Mugu’s Naval Base Ventura County, the sand is white and contrasts with the bright azure sky and the sparkling ocean waters. You might say it’s a perfect day to sit in a beach chair and enjoy another beautiful California day.

The race included a 1,500-meter open water ocean swim, a 40-kilometer bike ride, and a 10-kilometer run.

Except the athletes gathered on this shoreline are not here to relax. They’re here to win.

It’s the 14th annual U.S. Armed Forces Triathlon and 60 athletes from the Navy, Marines, Air Force, Army, and Coast Guard have come to compete for a chance to make the U.S. military team that will eventually participate in the international triathlon competition known as Conseil International du Sport Militaire (CISM).

Captain Doug King, Chief Staff Officer, Naval Base Ventura County

“This is a competitive triathlon whose winners will compete in the world games,” said Theresa Cunningham Miller, Public Affairs Officer for Naval Base Ventura County. “It’s an esprit de corp event as well as a competition that brings groups together and also gives them the opportunity to represent the United States.”

For the gathered athletes, their mission is to navigate a course which includes a 1,500-meter swim in the ocean, a 40-kilometer bike ride, and a 10-kilometer run.

Teams from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy (including the Coast Guard) and Air Force are competing for points and positions on the U.S. Armed Forces Team that will travel to the CISM World Military Triathlon Championship in Lidköping, Sweden June 15 through 18, 2018.

For Captain Doug King, Chief Staff Officer of Naval Base Ventura County, the annual event is a highlight.

“We like to host an event like this,” he stated. “It’s safe for them to do it here at a Navy base because there’s no outside influence of other bikers or other vehicles that might get in the way. On base we can be more focused and not have those kind of distractions.”

According to King, this is one of several events that military athletes participate in to accumulate points. This particular event is the final chance to qualify for CISM:

“At the end of today, that’s the end of the point system. They’ll accumulate all the points from all the events that they’ve done in other places as well, and then whoever gets the top points will go to the international competition.”

Emma and Hudson Schiller (right) and uncle John Schiller (left) traveled from Maryland to watch husband Captain Matthew Schiller, U.S. Army, complete.

The athletes and their families travel from military bases around the country. One example was the Schiller family from Ft. Meade Maryland. Tri-athlete Matthew Schiller is stationed at Ft. Meade and works in Washington, D.C. His wife Emma and son Hudson, along with Matthew’s uncle, John Schiller from Santa Barbara, have come to watch him compete. Matthew and Emma are both Army Captains.

Emma, who is also a runner, described Matt’s athletic background.

“He grew up as a swimmer,” she explained, “so he’s always been a really good cardio athlete. After college, where he was on the Army swim team, he picked up triathlon because of people in his unit who did it. So they motivated him to start it.”

As Emma noted, Matt is very dedicated to his sport: “He doesn’t start anything unless he thinks he can be the best at it, so he’s been putting in the work, sometimes three hours a day to get to a competitive level and finishing in the top three. He’s in it to win it.”

Spence Cocanour is the team director for Air Force. He’s been coaching these triathlon athletes since 2000. He described the kind of athlete that is attracted to triathlon.

“A lot of them have swimming backgrounds or running backgrounds and get into triathlon,” he noted. “The dedication that all these athletes put into it is tremendous. They all have regular day jobs and they try to train around all that.”

Cocanour added that this event is a different kind of triathlon, one in which it’s important to work as a team:

“Since this is a draft legal race, it kind of changes the dynamics. The swim is vitally important, so you get with the front chase groups and the front packs. They’ll be drafting off of each other. In normal triathlons, there’s no drafting. In this race, if you get with the pack, you save your legs and then you’re a little fresher for the run.”

In addition to tactics, there’s also the challenge of connecting one event directly to the next.

Individual men’s winner Kyle Hooker, Aircraft and Launch Recovery Officer, U.S. Navy

“This race, it’s really hard,” said Cocanour. “There’s no ease in period for the bike. As soon as you go, you go as fast as you possibly can right from the get go. Especially with a pack, you’re fighting to stay with them.”

Who really wants to do this? “Somebody who has a lot of internal goals,” he explained. “They have to have goal settings, they need to have a plan. You can’t just do this race ad hoc. You can’t just jump into this race. You’ll never make it here.”

At one hour and fifty minutes, the men began to cross the finish line. The individual winner was Kyle Hooker from the U.S. Navy. Hooker is stationed on the U.S.S. Nimitz in Bremerton, Washington as an aircraft launch and recovery officer.

Hooker described how he got involved in triathlon competitions. “I started at the Naval Academy about 12 years ago,” he recalled. “They had a club team. I was a swimmer in high school and just wanted to keep pursuing something fun and athletic.”

At two hours and 11 minutes, the women began to arrive. The individual winner was Mollie Hebda from the U.S. Marine Corp. Mollie is originally from Pittsburgh and is currently stationed at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, California.

This is her second win in a row for the women’s triathlon.

“There’s always a lot of pressure to do really well when you come back,” she said. “Obviously it feels amazing. Winning is the best. It was a hard run. It was very windy. It was a struggle.”

Mollie described her transition from running to triathlon:

“I ran at the Naval Academy and I got hurt all the time. I cross trained a lot so I would not get hurt. I was always on the bike. I was always swimming. With a running background, and since I cycled all the time in cross training, triathlon was the natural next thing for me to do.”

NAVAL BASE VENTURA COUNTY – POINT MUGU, Calif. (June 9, 2018) During the 2018 Armed Forces Triathlon Championship, service members compete both individually and as a team to Olympic distances of a 1,500-meter (approximately 1-mile) open-water swim,
followed by a 40-kilometer (24.8-mile) bike ride, and finishing with a 10-kilometer
(6.2-mile) run. Additionally, teams compete for points and spots on the
U.S. Armed Forces Team that will compete at the Conseil International du Sport
Militaire (CISM) World Military Triathlon Championship in Lidkoping, Sweden
from 15-18 June 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Second Class Paul Cox/Released)

For the team competitions, the winners of the U.S. Armed Forces Triathlon were:

Men’s Team

Silver Medal: Air Force; Gold Medal: Navy

Women’s Team Gold Medal Winners

Individual women’s winner Mollie Hebda (right), a Marine from Camp Pendleton, poses with twin sister and fellow competitor Megan Hebda (left) from the U.S. Navy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women’s Team:

Silver Medal: Air Force; Gold Medal: Navy

The athletes going to Sweden based on their point accumulation were:

Women’s Masters

Maj Judith Coyle, Air Force; Maj Christina Hopper, Air Force

Men’s Masters

Capt. Lee Boyer, Navy; LCDR Robert Allen, Navy; Lt. Col Jonathan Mason, Air Force

Women’s Open

ENS Katie Cullingford, Navy; Lt. Elizabeth Bochner, Navy; Lt. Megan Hedba, Navy; Maj Jamie Turner, Air Force; 2nd Lt. Samantha Skold, Air Force; Capt. Mollie Hebda, Marines

Men’s Open

Capt. Joel Bischoff, Air Force; Capt. Brett King, Air Force; Lt. Ian King, Coast Guard; Lt. Kyle Hooker, Navy; ESN Davis Frease, Navy; Capt. Nicholas Sterghos, Army

NAVAL BASE VENTURA COUNTY – POINT MUGU, Calif. (June 9, 2018) During the 2018 Armed Forces Triathlon Championship, service members compete both individually and as a team to Olympic distances of a 1,500-meter (approximately 1-mile) open-water swim,
followed by a 40-kilometer (24.8-mile) bike ride, and finishing with a 10-kilometer
(6.2-mile) run. Additionally, teams compete for points and spots on the
U.S. Armed Forces Team that will compete at the Conseil International du Sport
Militaire (CISM) World Military Triathlon Championship in Lidkoping, Sweden
from 15-18 June 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Second Class Paul Cox/Released)

Photo Credits: Tim Pompey


Tim Pompey, a freelance writer who has done lots of local affairs and entertainment/cultural writing, lives in Oxnard. Tim is also a fiction writer (Facebook Page). You can learn about his books on Amazon.com: amazon.com/author/booksbytimpompey.

Mr. Pompey’s Newest Book:  Mrs. Parsley and the Tale of Mossel’s Farm

Mrs. Parsley loves to tell stories to children. In her little house in Okafor, Florida, she writes them herself. Then, in a twist from her own past, Mrs. Parsley and her young friend Terence go on an adventure to rescue children held captive at the Mossel’s farm deep in the Big Cypress Swamp. Down the Blue Pole Road, across the Midnight Ferry, past the Milky White Magnolia Trail, and through the Crossing of the Gnome, magic, danger, and a wee bit of fun await them as they carry out their mission. Who will travel with Mrs. Parsley as she reclaims her past and discovers a new future—for Terence, for the captured children, for herself?

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