ST. PETERSBURG — Before the starting horn blared Sunday morning to begin the St. Anthony’s Triathlon, Benjamin Kanute said he stood on the beach, “feeling far more assured of myself than I was the last time I ran this race.”
That would be 2013 when Kanute was 21 and competing in his first professional triathlon.
“I made it through that first race,” Kanute said. “But it wasn’t the greatest. I always wanted to get back here and do it better.”
On Sunday, Kanute, now a 27-year-old living in Phoenix, Ariz., charged into the lead during the 1.5K swim, increased his lead on the 40K bike ride, and cruised home to victory in the 10K run.
He not only never trailed, but he was never seriously challenged before crossing the finish line in one hour, 46 minutes, 3 seconds, almost two minutes ahead of the runnerup, 26-year-old Jason West of Boulder, Colo.
“We came out the water pretty close but then Ben just smoked all of us on the bike,” said West, who also finished second at last year’s St. Anthony’s. “I tried to claw back on the run but Ben just had too much of a lead. Overall I raced well today, but I don’t think there was any way any of us were going to catch Ben today. He was too tough.”
Similar sentiments were voiced for the women’s winner, 38-year-old Sarah Haskins-Kortuem, who won St. Anthony’s for a record eighth time in 1:58:54, 24 seconds ahead of the runnerup, Boulder, Colo.’s, Lindsey Jerdonek, who at 35 was coming back from a knee injury that slowed her the past year.
“I was hurting on the swim, hurting on the bike and hurting on the run, but that makes winning feel that much better,” said Haskins-Kortuem, who now must find time to train in Eureka, Mo., between taking care of her 5-year-old daughter, Caroline, and her 2-year-old son, Connor. “I don’t get to train as much as I used to and sometimes at the end of a day I get pretty tired, physically and mentally. I don’t know how much longer I’ll keep racing, but right now we’re making it work. I would like to keep coming back to this race. I love this race.”
The first- and second-place finishers all said Sunday’s conditions were pretty good, although it was a bit hotter than they would have liked.
Kanute, a 2016 Olympian who has now won three straight triathlons around the world, said he might have felt a little better in the heat than some others because last week he won on an even hotter day in Barbados.
“I think your body does adjust (over time) to the heat,” Kanute said.
Next week, Kanute is off to race in China, but he said no matter what happens moving forward, winning St. Anthony’s will always be one of his brightest highlights.
“Coming back here and winning was definitely on my bucket list,” Kanute said. “I wanted to come back sooner but it never worked out with my schedule. I’m so glad it did this time around."