Race Coverage

A Great Race at a Great Place on a Great Day...



17th BUFFALO SPRINT - For ten years ELENA HENGEL (photo) competed in the equestrian sport of "Three Day Eventing." Knowing only that this is a horsey deal, we went to Wikipedia for clarification: 

Eventing is an equestrian event where a single horse and rider combine and compete against other competitors across the three disciplines of dressage, cross-country, and show jumping. This event has its roots in a comprehensive cavalry test that required mastery of several types of riding.

Cool stuff.

Hengel, now 25, decided to give triathlon a go last year, racing four times with decent results, albeit not the kind that immediately portended elite potential. 

Elena went into last Sunday's Buffalo Sprint Triathlon flying well under the radar. Four-time champion CHERYL ZITUR, and BETTINA KEPPERS, a perennial podium finisher here who was rocking a cool diamond nose stud, were favored, with 2021 Chisago Sprint winner DEANNA JAGIELO, three-time Master of the Year nominee CHRISTEL KIPPENHAN and underrated master KELLI MORETTER-BUE expected to challenge for top spots...

But it was Hengel who threw down a superior performance, one that demonstrated vastly improved splits from her prior races. She posted the fastest women's swim time of the day, which when coupled with the fact that she launched in the first Sprint wave, put her in front, a position she held the rest of the way. 

Elena's run split was, like the swim, her gender's fastest, and the fact that she was outbiked, though not by much, by established elites Zitur, Keppers and Moretter-Bue, didn't matter. She crossed the finish line in 1:06:10, the fourth fastest women's time on this course which has been in place since 2015.

Then she waited, as did the spectators, for one or more of her credentialed pursuers from later waves to rob her of her first career victory. But that didn't happen. In fact, her eventual winning margin over runner-up Zitur was a substantive 44-seconds, and 1:22 ahead of bronze medalist Keppers, who kept her podium streak at Buffalo Sprint alive.

Moretter-Bue (4th in 1:08:54) and Jagielo (5th in 1:09:57) also cracked 1:10.

Wandyandy.pngith a big win under her belt, Hengel is excited to face her next challenge, which happens to be the Lake Minnetonka Triathlon, the site of her first triathlon. She finished 18th there in 2021, her 1:28:00 a full 20-minutes behind the women's winner. Her Buffalo splits suggest that she is capable  of a 1:13 - 14 this time around, which, historically, would land her in the women's Top 5.

No pressure, Elena.

Hengels was not the only relative newcomer to break-out at Buffalo Sprint. The first man to cross the line was KYLE LITHGOW, 23. His bike split, the second fastest of the morning, put him in front, a position he kept until the finish line. His time was very good, a 1:00:37, but was it goode enough to hold off the fast guys from later waves?

Unfortunately, not. Less than three minutes later, BRIAN STORHAUG, winner of at least seven tris in his career, and two -time Buffalo Sprint runner-up, crossed. His time was nine seconds faster than Lithgow's. Brian then, was the clubhouse leader, hoping that an elite 40-plusser wouldn't rob him of the win. He was not optimistic. He knew that former Master of the Year nominee ANDY ZABEL (photo R) was in the field. He also was aware that Andy had rocked a big win at the Apple Duathlon two weeks earlier. Not only that, on paper no one in the field could match his bike and run creds.

Zabel did indeed outbike, and especially outrun (17:17!), the field. His finishing time was stellar, a 58:52, and the win was the 13th of his multisport career.

Unlike the Olympic race, a plethora of Age Group records were not rewritten, though some came close-Zabel (40-44), Craig Peterso (60-64), Robert Kranz (75-79). Two records did fall, though. Kelli Moretter-Bue lowered Julie Currie's 40-44 AGR set in 2016 (1:10:19) by 1:25, and Cheryl Ziitur took a sizable bite out of her prior 55-59 AGR. Last year she turned in a 1:10:57, a fine performance given the hellacious weather conditions. Her time on Sunday was a  super-impressive 1:06:54

Buffalo Sprint, like it's Olympic companion, was a great race in a great place (Sturges Park, Lake Buffalo) on a great day.  RESULTS