Race Previews

Heart of the Lakes XXXIII Preview...


HEART OF THE LAKES XXXIII PREVIEW - Who are the Big Guns who will be towing the starting line of this year's State Championship triathlon, and its Sprint course companion next Sunday? Here, in alpha order, is our breakdown of the talent, not all of it, mind you, but those who we think will battle for podium spots: 


JOSH BLANKENHEIM (Duluth) - 2nd in 2017 & 2015 (PR - 1:33:05)

SEAN COOLEY (St. Paul) - 1st in 2017, 2nd in 2016 (PR - 1:31:05)

SAMUEL HAUCK (Rochester) - 2nd in 2008, 3rd in 2009 (PR - 1:27:59)

KEVIN O'CONNOR (Medina) - 2nd in 2010 & 2009, 3rd in 2015 (PR - 1:28:17)

MATTHEW PAYNE (Golden Valley) - 1st in 2016 & 2015, 1st amateur (2nd overall) in 2014 (PR - 1:30:16) ...


ALSO: TONY SCHILLER (Eden Prairie) - Tony, now 60, has won this event an unprecedented 10 times, broken 1:30 eight imes, also unprecedented, and owns the amateur men's record - 1:26:34. Since turning 50, he has managed to place in the overall Top 10 five times, and currently holds FOUR AG records. The 60-64M CR is 1:49:30. Schiller should break that this weekend by close to 10 minutes.


JOE ADRIAENS (Elk River) - Joe was runner-up for Most Improved last year and has the talent necessary to crack the Top 5. The first five guys mentioned above will have something to say about that, as well as up-and-comer SPENCER SYVERTSON (Paynesville), who has won his last two races by large margins.


SUZIE FOX (Chaska) - 1st in 2014 & 2012, 2nd in 2015, 3rd in 2010 (PR - 1:42:26)

HANNA GRINAKER (St. Paul) - 1st in 2016 (PR - 1:42:14)

DIANE HANKEE (Lake Elmo) - 1st in 2013, 2nd in 2017 & 2010 (PR - 1:43:59)

KRISTINA SWENSON (Rogers) - 1st @ HOLT Sprint in 2016 (Jr. CR), 2nd at HOLT Sprint in 2015 - We mention Kristina alongside the past long course winners because she is arguably the current frontrunner for 2018 Most Improved. We think there will be a spot in the Top 5 for her on Sunday.

BECKY YOUNGBERG (Eden Prairie) - 1st in 2011 & 2004, 2nd in 2008 (PR - 1:41:04)

ALSO: We were saddened to learn that two-time HOLT bronze medalist MAGGIE WEISS was recently diagnosed with a stress fracture, thus will likely miss the rest of the season.

JAN GUENTHER (Mound) - Guenther, now 59, has won this race 9 times and owns four divisional records. She placed 8th among overall women last year. We are confident that she will once again crack the Top 10.

CHERYL ZITUR (Corcoran) - Zitur, 53, is a three-time Minnesota Master of the Year who has won 12 tris since 2013. She's making her HOLT debut, and we think that the 50-54W course best 1:47:08 is within her grasp.


Next, we need to add some verbage about HOLT's Sprint race. The men's podium race will be very competive, perhaps more than ever. The field features BRIAN BRIAN, 52, a six-time winner of the long course, NATE HOFFMAN, a former sprint duathlon national champion, and  KRIS SPOTH, who's resume suggests that he has what it takes to rewrite Kevin O'Connor's amateur CR - 42:15. It should be noted that Kris is slated to race the day before at Minneapolis.

ALSO: Past HOLT Sprint men's winners ANDY ZABEL and KYLE SWENSON are also enrolled.

Who will take the Top Step on the sprint podium for the women on Sunday? Our best guess is that 2017 runner-up ISABELLA BUENTING, only 15, will improve her position by one place this year. Her 3rd place finish at New Bri last month tells us that she's ready to win, and perhaps even earn a Junior of the Year nomination at season's end.

Who will challenge her? We certainly believe that ANNE GRABOWSKI will give the teen a run for her money.