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A day after graduating medical school, Stephanie Arnold becomes a two-time Gold Nugget Triathlon champ

  • Author: Beth Bragg
  • Updated: May 17
  • Published May 16
Stephanie Arnold nears the finish line on her way to a second straight victory in Sunday's Gold Nugget Triathlon at Chugiak High School. (Bill Roth / ADN)

The Gold Nugget Triathlon returned Sunday after taking a year off because of you-know-what, and the big winner of the all-female race was .... Jacob Kirk?

Kirk’s Y chromosome makes him ineligible to compete in Alaska’s biggest triathlon, but you couldn’t deny his presence at the 38th edition of the race.

When his younger sister, Stephanie Arnold, crossed the finish line to claim her second consecutive victory, she executed a 360-degree spin as she passed under the arch. Something she picked up from her brother, one of Alaska’s top road runners who likes to have fun when he runs.

When his older sister, Valerie Goulet, finished a little while later in 21st place, she wore a triathlon suit made from a kaleidoscope of colors. Something she picked up from her brother, who gained running fame a few years ago for running the Boston Marathon in a plaid shirt.

Gold Nugget Triathlon winner Stephanie Arnold, right, greets sister Valerie Goulet, who placed 21st, at the finish line. (Beth Bragg / Anchorage Daily News)

Arnold, 27, greeted Goulet, 30, with a finish-line embrace that became a group hug when mom Tanya Kirk joined them. The moment passed quickly because Kirk was just a few minutes away from the start of her race — people started in 30-second increments, and with more than 350 of them it took more than three hours to get everyone on the race course.

Kirk went on to finish 52nd overall and fourth in the 50-54 age group, which coupled with her daughters’ strong finishes gave the family something to celebrate for a second straight day. On Saturday, Arnold and her husband both graduated from medical school.

“We walked virtually at my parents’ house and we watched the online ceremony,” Arnold said. Then they feasted on candy that spilled out of a coronavirus-shaped pinata.

A day later, Arnold ate up the competition.

Stephanie Arnold takes a breath during the 300-yard swim. (Bill Roth / ADN)

The South High graduate won the race — a 300-yard swim, a 9-mile bike and a 3.1-mile run — by more than two minutes over three-time champion Amber Stull.

Arnold posted the top times in two of the three legs to triumph in 50 minutes, 45 seconds. She had the day’s fastest times in the bike (24:11) and the run (20:15) and was 18th-fastest in the swim (4:44).

As the defending champion, Arnold was the first person in the Chugiak High pool at the start of the race, and no one ever caught her. Her lead grew with each mile, but because of the staggered-start, she was never quite sure how far ahead she was.

Victoria Summers puts on her shoes as she makes the transition from swim to bike. (Bill Roth / ADN)

The race is usually held at Bartlett High, where a bigger pool allows for a mass start among the top-seeded racers, so they’re racing head-to-head. That element was missing Sunday.

“It’s so hard not knowing. It feels like everybody’s just chasing you down,” Arnold said. “I could see all the people at the turnaround, so it was really fun getting to see all the women. But it was super-hard to gauge.”

The field for this year’s race was about one-fourth the size as usual and spectators were at a minimum because of COVID-19, but you could still feel the vibe of inclusiveness that marks the Gold Nugget.

This is a triathlon for all ages and experience levels, and for many girls and women, it’s their first triathlon. Known as “newbies,” they are welcomed as warmly as the returning champions.

Fifth-place Teresa Urlich nears the end of the bike leg, where her time of 24:41 was the second fastest of the day. (Bill Roth / ADN)
Morgan Aldridge of Sterling hits the bike course. (Bill Roth / ADN)

As the first wave of racers trickled across the finish line, the theme song from “Welcome Back, Kotter” played over loudspeakers. It was an apt tune for the times. Most races were canceled last summer because of the pandemic, and this was one of the first big participant-sport events of this summer, and little reunions were happening everywhere.

“It’s great to be back together,” Arnold said.

Besides Sunday’s 351 finishers, another 700 girls and women did the race virtually and 270 did a hybrid event that included a combination of in-person and virtual legs; hybrid racers completed their in-person legs — running, swimming or both — Saturday at Bartlett High.

As always, there were many families with multiple entries, and often multi-generational entries.

Ava Sawyer, left, and Emilee Sawyer of Seward exit the pool together. (Bill Roth / ADN)

Ryann Dorris and Lauren Dorris, sisters on the West High swim team, turned in the top two swim times — Ryann clocked 3:52; Lauren 4:09 — and placed 1-2 in the 15-19 age group. Their mom, Joey Caterinichio, placed 91st overall and ninth in the 50-54 age group.

Ida Marie Piccard, who along with Diane Barnett and Cindy Cooper continued her streak of completing every Gold Nugget since the first one in 1984, placed 340th and finished third in the 80-89 age group. Daughter Lu Ann Piccard was 307th overall and 15th in the 60-64 age group.

Kinsey Loan captured fourth place and was second to Arnold in the 25-29 age group, and mom Sheryl Loan placed 41st overall to win the 60-64 age group. Mother Bri Lowen placed eighth; daughter Madelin Lowen was 35th. And on and on.

Racers including Bri Lowen, left, keep their masks on while waiting to begin their swims. (Bill Roth / ADN)

Stull, 43, finished ahead of two daughters — Cadence (46th overall and third in the 15-19 age group) and Dara (72nd overall and fourth in the 10-14 age group).

She claimed second place in 52:53, nearly a minute ahead of third-place Kristina Eaton (53:48). Eaton started her swim 60 seconds ahead of Stull, who nearly made up the difference — and that set the stage for a sprint finish between the two, with Eaton pulling ahead in the final 30 yards or so.

“We came around the corner and she said, ‘Good job, Amber’ and I couldn’t talk,” Stull said, though she eventually mustered a “thank you.”

As the two approached the finish line, an announcer called attention to their duel. Although both Eaton and Stull knew second place belonged to Stull, they made a full-out sprint to the finish.

“They called it a ‘neck-and-neck finish’ and Kristina said, ‘You know, Amber, you have it.’ But it’s the finish line!” Stull said. Not sprinting wasn’t an option.

Kristina Eaton pulls away from Amber Stull near the finish line, but it was Stull who finished second -- the race had a staggered start, and Stull started 60 seconds after Eaton. (Bill Roth / ADN)
Amber Stull, left, and Kristina Eaton recover after their sprint finish. (Bill Roth / ADN)

No other racers were within sight when Arnold finished, a lead that made her feel secure in taking the extra second or two to do her finish-line spin. Waiting nearby was husband Andrew Arnold; both will soon begin their residencies at a Michigan hospital — him as a general surgeon, her as an OB-GYN.

Arnold wore teal nail polish on her fingers and toes, a perfect match for her teal-and-black triathlon suit. Her sister’s dizzying array of colors would have matched just about anything, but her nails were bare of polish.

“Because I have a 3-year-old, coloring my nails would have to be a team sport, and I don’t have the time,” Goulet said.

Valerie Goulet makes the transition from swim to bike. (Bill Roth / ADN)

2021 Gold Nugget Triathlon

1. Stephanie Arnold, 50:45; 2. Amber Stull, 52:52; 3. Kristina Eaton, 53:48; 4. Kinsey Loan, 55:05; 5. Teresa Ulrich, 55:15; 6. Sara Miller, 55:49; 7. Rebecca McKee, 56:00; 8. Bri Lowen, 56:28; 9. Katie Green, 56:35; 10. Ivy Eski, 57:10; 11. Kristina Storlie, 57:53; 12. Jody Barton, 58:07; 13. Alyse Loran, 58:11; 14. Victoria Summers, 58:20; 15. Kaila Hawley, 59:00; 16. Sarah Freistone, 59:11; 17. Kristin Riall, 59:28; 18. Ashley Lehman, 59:45; 19. Ryann Dorris, 59:59; 20. Casey Mapes, 1:00:24; 21. Valerie Goulet, 1:00:47; 22. Morgan Aldridge, 1:01:23; 23. Holly Martinson, 1:01:23; 24. Lauren Spinelli, 1:01:51; 25. Nicki Holmen, 1:02:07; 26. Holly Boston, 1:02:29; 27. Liane Nagata, 1:03:31; 28. Heather Onders, 1:03:34; 29. Melanee Stiassny, 1:03:49; 30. Kristine Percival, 1:03:59; 31. Katra Wedeking, 1:04:19; 32. Katie Seybert, 1:04:24; 33. Tamra Kornfield, 1:04:38; 34. Madelin Lowen, 1:04:38; 35. Madison Rosser, 1:04:54; 36. Jodi Harskamp, 1:04:59; 37. Jennifer Henderson, 1:04:59; 38. Mia Stiassny, 1:05:05; 39. Nancy Spence, 1:06:15; 40. Lauren Dorris, 1:06:23; 41. Sheryl Loan, 1:06:33; 42. Hailee Rahm, 1:06:51; 43. Debbie Boots, 1:06:54; 44. Sarah Buhr, 1:07:00; 45. Kaylee Heck, 1:07:18; 46. Cadence Stull, 1:07:22; 47. Rose Garner, 1:07:51; 48. Angie Harris, 1:08:08; 49. Keena Bennett, 1:08:15; 50. Jennifer Schmidt, 1:08:21; 51. Joey Eski, 1:08:25; 52. Tanya Kirk, 1:08:28; 53. Elizabeth Matthews, 1:08:35; 54. Katherine Puls, 1:08:38; 55. Mary Krysinski, 1:08:43; 56. Dianne Prince, 1:09:08; 57. Elizabeth Drewes-Todd, 1:09:23; 58. Melanie Jonsson, 1:09:27; 59. Kaitlin Mattos, 1:09:46; 60. Lori Guyer, 1:09:47; 61. Ashley Hicks, 1:09:49; 62. Alisha Sarginger, 1:09:52; 63. Hannah Haakinson, 1:10:00; 64. Maggie Donnelly, 1:10:04; 65. Alexis Furin, 1:10:11; 66. Erika Bennett, 1:10:11; 67. Ashley French, 1:10:26; 68. Kirsten Gamradt, 1:10:35; 69. Amy Engeberg, 1:10:49; 70. Emma Haddix, 1:11:19; 71. Melanie Briggs, 1:11:19; 72. Dara Stull, 1:11:45; 73. Amy Bushatz, 1:12:00; 74. Julie Merrill, 1:12:05; 75. Jill Franchino, 1:12:10; 76. Linnea Gray, 1:12:21; 77. Erin Howe, 1:12:32; 78. Christina Morgan, 1:12:41; 79. Madeline Ramuglia, 1:13:00; 80. Whitney Andersen, 1:13:13; 81. Sarah Morehouse, 1:13:31; 82. Renee Stephens, 1:13:31; 83. Sara Cleaver, 1:13:32; 84. Roberta Graham, 1:13:42; 85. Cindy Freistone, 1:13:58; 86. Ruth Kroona, 1:14:29; 87. Peggy Gonzalez, 1:14:43; 88. Kris Miller, 1:14:47; 89. Teresa Doerr, 1:14:58; 90. Mary Mitchell, 1:15:14; 91. Joey Caterinichio, 1:15:49; 92. Riley Bennett-Vockner, 1:15:49; 93. Elizabeth Bingham, 1:15:59; 94. Jinny Cooper, 1:16:09; 95. Suzanne Armentrout, 1:16:10; 96. Traci Wood, 1:16:11; 97. Aimee Chauvot, 1:16:20; 98. Mae Stinnett, 1:16:22; 99. Vera Pluharova, 1:16:34; 100. Lilian Ho, 1:16:53; 101. Breena Weller, 1:16:54; 102. Susie Dietz, 1:17:02; 103. Gloria Reyes, 1:17:04; 104. Kathy Rumsey, 1:17:04; 105. Abigail Bigelow, 1:17:12; 106. Heather White, 1:17:12; 107. Michelle Hensel, 1:17:28; 108. Amy Hart, 1:17:30; 109. Diana Carter, 1:17:37; 110. Malia Reeg, 1:17:38; 111. Mollee Raney, 1:17:38; 112. Mary Cox, 1:17:48; 113. Emily Ross, 1:18:01; 114. Larissa Parker, 1:18:14; 115. Sidney Epperheimer, 1:18:29; 116. Debra Kinn, 1:18:35; 117. Bonnie Moeller, 1:18:43; 118. Summer Cutting, 1:19:12; 119. DeAnn Denter, 1:19:20; 120. Madeline Bingham, 1:19:27; 121. Tricia Perkins, 1:19:43; 122. Michelle Taylor, 1:19:46; 123. Carolyn Easton, 1:19:46; 124. HEIDI EMBLEY, 1:19:52; 125. Ellie Cutting, 1:19:58; 126. Crystal Kappelman, 1:20:01; 127. Cindy Cooper, 1:20:26; 128. Diane Blas, 1:20:33; 129. Maureen Van Wagner, 1:20:35; 130. Rachel Scott, 1:20:37; 131. Anneliese Barbay, 1:20:40; 132. Carrie Stanfield, 1:20:40; 133. Karen Sallee, 1:20:49; 134. Mari Rueter, 1:21:07; 135. Sonja Mackey, 1:21:19; 136. Elizabeth Mar THOMAS, 1:21:25; 137. Kimberly Osburn, 1:21:25; 138. Staci Fieser, 1:21:28; 139. Michelle Cason, 1:21:39; 140. Lauren Gaither, 1:21:43; 141. Phillipia Holness, 1:21:43; 142. Esther Hayes, 1:21:52; 143. Tui Stanbury, 1:22:12; 144. Anna Kardashyan, 1:22:17; 145. Courtney Abel, 1:22:18; 146. Liz Turner, 1:22:36; 147. Cheril Wilcox, 1:22:37; 148. JESSICA JOHNSON, 1:22:38; 149. Karen Divelbiss, 1:22:42; 150. Jamey Reed, 1:22:43; 151. Lubava Wessels, 1:22:54; 152. Jamie Lytton, 1:23:14; 153. Clarissa Williams, 1:23:18; 154. Amy Brumbaugh, 1:23:20; 155. Hannah Goldman, 1:23:25; 156. Julie Austerman, 1:23:26; 157. Anna Knopes, 1:23:28; 158. Staci Friesen, 1:23:33; 159. Bailey Epperheimer, 1:24:03; 160. Echo McDonald, 1:24:37; 161. Amelia Kari, 1:24:40; 162. Kayla Guerrero, 1:24:43; 163. Karen Brady, 1:24:49; 164. Mandy Johnson, 1:24:54; 165. Ryan Martin, 1:25:10; 166. Jennifer Gates, 1:25:34; 167. Katarzyna Michon, 1:25:39; 168. Courtney Teeple, 1:25:40; 169. Madisen Johnson, 1:25:41; 170. Annaleisa Kress, 1:25:42; 171. Karen Loeffler, 1:25:45; 172. Grace Dietz Pawlak, 1:25:46; 173. Elene Cole, 1:25:49; 174. Madison Dietz Pawlak, 1:26:16; 175. Rachel Hopkins, 1:26:19; 176. Randi Kindgren, 1:26:22; 177. Kari Dupree, 1:26:24; 178. Shauna Crawford, 1:26:29; 179. Debbie Paine, 1:26:57; 180. Diane Firmani, 1:27:04; 181. Amy Hatter, 1:27:05; 182. Beatrix Brogan, 1:27:05; 183. Jennine Redick, 1:27:05; 184. Annie Markle, 1:27:24; 185. Tracy Ross, 1:27:25; 186. Lena Lawhead, 1:27:28; 187. Joan Nelson, 1:27:42; 188. Rena Kornstad, 1:27:59; 189. Kassidy Barclay, 1:28:08; 190. Sanjana Greenhill, 1:28:10; 191. Nicole Cleary, 1:28:12; 192. Sheila Swanson, 1:28:30; 193. Elizabeth Gresham, 1:28:35; 194. Clara Robinson, 1:28:35; 195. Allison Hatter, 1:28:35; 196. Kathy Seybert, 1:28:36; 197. Sarah Wehrmann, 1:28:37; 198. Michelle Moore, 1:28:44; 199. Katie Bisson, 1:29:04; 200. Toni Swearingen, 1:29:06; 201. Ashly Beckes, 1:29:38; 202. Sarah Shoffstall-Cone, 1:29:47; 203. Iris Rothbarth, 1:29:48; 204. Sandra Lee, 1:29:51; 205. Catie Baldridge, 1:29:51; 206. Valerie Quinn, 1:29:58; 207. Eleanor Mayo, 1:30:14; 208. Bonnie Wanat, 1:30:16; 209. Nadia Anders, 1:30:22; 210. Tamara Freistone, 1:30:40; 211. Eliza Anders, 1:30:46; 212. Ruth Lonser, 1:30:48; 213. Serena Outhier, 1:31:00; 214. Kristine Bollinger, 1:31:03; 215. Serena Sweet, 1:31:11; 216. Evelyn Whitson, 1:31:23; 217. Mariah Sallee, 1:31:43; 218. Katherine Colquhoun, 1:31:46; 219. Jamie Johnson, 1:31:53; 220. Heather Courrier, 1:32:04; 221. Lori Kaltenbach, 1:32:08; 222. Gretchen Wuttke, 1:32:22; 223. Christina Lam, 1:32:52; 224. Lacey Demers, 1:33:03; 225. Katherine O’Grady, 1:33:08; 226. Susannah Harper, 1:33:13; 227. Fiona Peichel, 1:33:17; 228. Nikelle Sherman, 1:33:22; 229. Jaylee Brendel, 1:33:31; 230. Jane Sullivan, 1:33:40; 231. Jessie Brown, 1:33:51; 232. Rylee Barnett, 1:34:06; 233. Brandi Mangione, 1:34:20; 234. Kathryn Duder, 1:34:29; 235. Francisca Barnett, 1:34:39; 236. Katie Hollingsworth, 1:34:51; 237. Maggi Arend, 1:35:13; 238. Cynthia Hatter, 1:35:58; 239. Jill Simek, 1:36:10; 240. Wendy Demers, 1:36:13; 241. Christina Ireton, 1:36:37; 242. Annika Langland, 1:36:38; 243. Jade Simek, 1:36:40; 244. Heather Githens, 1:36:53; 245. Ashley Baker, 1:37:28; 246. Megan Bryant, 1:37:31; 247. Lesli Ellis-wouters, 1:37:42; 248. Leah Parks, 1:37:42; 249. Vera Hershey, 1:37:52; 250. Amanda Dunlap, 1:38:08; 251. Alyssa Sweet, 1:38:22; 252. Candice Sardina, 1:38:32; 253. Karen Sundberg, 1:38:39; 254. Wendy Heck, 1:38:47; 255. Kelly Bigelow, 1:38:48; 256. Ashley Lang, 1:39:31; 257. Ava Rothbarth, 1:39:48; 258. Bonnie Bailey, 1:39:59; 259. Sandra Lowther, 1:40:11; 260. Robyn Novak, 1:40:27; 261. Grace Lang, 1:40:31; 262. Leann Stubblefield, 1:40:32; 263. Jacquelyn Welge, 1:40:37; 264. Tammy Morton, 1:40:39; 265. Kara Hopkins, 1:40:40; 266. Jennifer Wehrmann, 1:41:26; 267. Krista Staff, 1:41:54; 268. Ashley Hester, 1:42:22; 269. Katerina Wessels, 1:42:23; 270. Jenn Sheffrey, 1:42:27; 271. Debby Marks, Eugene, OR 1:43:39; 272. Sarah Rosen, 1:43:39; 273. Laura Rosen, 1:44:10; 274. Millie Spezialy, 1:44:20; 275. Hewlett Faith, 1:44:25; 276. Jan Darch, 1:45:03; 277. Abby Tiedemann, 1:45:09; 278. Denise Duff, 1:45:11; 279. Courtney Foye, 1:45:12; 280. Anika Biss, 1:46:26; 281. Donna Annone, 1:46:43; 282. Benay Carrillo, 1:46:44; 283. Shelley Biss, 1:47:04; 284. Jennifer Lancaster-Jacks, 1:47:22; 285. Rebecca Kegley, 1:47:29; 286. Jolene McDowell, 1:48:25; 287. Cassandra Barsalou, 1:48:40; 288. Tressa Shapp, 1:49:02; 289. Aspen Lennox, 1:49:28; 290. Bonny Barr, 1:50:17; 291. Maya DeWitt, 1:50:31; 292. Lacey Centeno, 1:51:08; 293. Tikkan Langland, 1:51:11; 294. Mei Yueh Lim, 1:51:15; 295. Ashley Bukowski, 1:51:28; 296. Emilee Sawyer, 1:51:41; 297. Maddie Dennis, 1:52:07; 298. Anna Bryant, 1:52:08; 299. Ava Sawyer, 1:52:13; 300. Adrienne Keck, 1:52:14; 301. Kjirsten Langland, 1:52:15; 302. Hailey Nelson, 1:52:35; 303. Kristin Whitson, 1:53:02; 304. Addie McEwen, 1:53:14; 305. Angela Johnstone, 1:53:15; 306. Danielle Bunselmeier, 1:53:20; 307. Luann Piccard, 1:53:45; 308. Ellen Whitson, 1:53:45; 309. Gabbie Lee, 1:54:08; 310. Kelly Taylor-Lee, 1:54:38; 311. June Gardner, 1:55:16; 312. Sara Braniff, 1:55:25; 313. Mary Hensel, 1:56:09; 314. Carey Carpenter, 1:56:25; 315. Julie Tisdale, 1:56:48; 316. Anya Carpenter, 1:56:55; 317. Sacha Jones, 1:56:56; 318. Rebecca Tucker, 1:58:47; 319. Kirsten Brogan, 2:01:39; 320. Judy Krier, 2:01:57; 321. Jennifer Barsalou, 2:02:04; 322. Meagan Nelson, 2:02:42; 323. Lexy Staheli Willis, 2:02:42; 324. Krystle Penaflor, 2:03:07; 325. Sarah Gilliland, 2:03:16; 326. Haley Wilkinson, 2:03:23; 327. Diane Barnett, 2:03:24; 328. Holly Mitchell, 2:05:43; 329. Diane Mohwinkel, 2:06:24; 330. Carol Stanek-Markel, 2:06:34; 331. Karen Wolski, 2:07:11; 332. Kaeli Peltola, 2:07:36; 333. Jennifer Reich Haas, 2:08:07; 334. Addison Nobles, 2:08:25; 335. Alice Braucht, 2:11:23; 336. Debra DeWitt, 2:12:51; 337. Victoria Taylor, 2:13:35; 338. Leah Dewitt, 2:13:52; 339. Karen Lewis, 2:14:42; 340. Idamarie Piccard, 2:15:08; 341. Alexandrea Van Horn, 2:16:59; 342. Carol Ann Willard, 2:17:29; 343. Sherrille Van Horn, 2:17:29; 344. Brianna Campbell, 2:17:45; 345. Megan Poulisse, 2:22:14; 346. Tina Worley, 2:22:17; 347. Rachel Arvelo, 2:22:45; 348. Abigail Vanwormer, 2:24:46; 349. Rae Anderson, 2:25:07; 350. Nina Anderson, 2:27:25; 351. Rebecca Palsha-Hopkins, 2:58:41; 352. Alice Hopkins, 2:59:07.

Correction: These results have been updated with the correct name for the 209th-place finisher, Nadia Anders.

Amber Stull nears the end of the bike course during the Gold Nugget Triathlon at Chugiak High School on Sunday, May 16, 2021. (Bill Roth / ADN)
Kristina Eaton gets on her bike en route to a third-place finish. (Bill Roth / ADN)
Stephanie Arnold nears the the end of the bike leg. (Bill Roth / ADN)
Sixth-place Sara Miller makes the transition from swim to bike. (Bill Roth / ADN)
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