Alaska News

Laine’s 3rd straight victory in Gold Nugget Triathlon was her fastest yet

After Kinsey Laine crossed the finish line for her third straight Gold Nugget Triathlon victory, she took a second to catch her breath and then went straight to her mother, Donna Laine, to give her a hug and wish her good luck on her race.

The interviews and celebration could wait.

"(I told her) good luck and to have fun," Laine said. "This is the second year we're doing (the Gold Nugget) together and to be able to do that with my mom is really special."

Laine joined select company Saturday as the fifth champion to win the nation's largest all-female triathlon three consecutive times. Shannon Donley did it twice (2000-01, 2009-11), but no racer has won four straight.

"There isn't room to make any mistakes at all in a race this length," said Laine, 29, whose time of 1 hour, 4 minutes, 23 seconds was her fastest yet. "I'm just excited to be able to start healthy and finish healthy three times."

In total, about 1,600 competitors conquered the 500-yard swim, 12-mile bike and 4.1-mile run, including multiple mother-daughter duos, some three-generation groups and one four-generation family. Helen Holmes, daughter Kristen Holmes, granddaughter Melinda Downs and great-granddaughter Kaylie Downs went out in the race's latter stages.

Low temperatures and light rain made for a chilly race, but most competitors were all smiles at the finish line at Bartlett High.


Several mother-daughter pairs crossed the finish line hand-in-hand and little kids ran up to their mothers, daughters or grandmothers to give them big hugs and show off their homemade signs.

47-year-old Anna-Marie Benson was teary-eyed after finishing just behind her daughter, 13-year-old Juliette Benson.

"It's just so fun to have your daughter coming up, it changes how you feel about competition," Anna-Marie said. "It's so fun to do it together."

Juliette first competed in the Gold Nugget with her mom last year, using an old kid's mountain bike for the biking portion. She did so well that her dad bought her a road bike for her second go.

Juliette's second triathlon came with some obstacles — her bike chain came off heading out of the transition area and she had to stop to get warmer clothes further into the chilly bike leg — but overall she was happy with her performance.

"I felt pretty strong the whole time," Juliette said. "During the bike I felt really, really cold and my hands felt like they were going to fall off … but overall I felt like it was a pretty strong race."

Racers at the Gold Nugget come in all shapes, sizes, ages and experience levels.

One newbie, 14-year-old Skyler Helgeson, learned to ride a bike for her first triathlon. Dimond High basketball guard Jahnna Hajdukovich took a break from shooting hoops to take a stab at the Gold Nugget.

On the other end of the spectrum were racers like 75-year-old Diane Mohwinkel, who was one of 44 racers to finish for the 15th time.

"You just have to do it at my age," she said. "You don't care about the time, you're just doing it.

"I love it."

Behind Laine, three-time champion Amber Stull, 39, and Megan Chelf, 30, rounded out the podium.

It was the ninth straight top-three finish for Stull, but going into the race she didn't know if she could do it since her training this year has been primarily distance-focused for the much-longer Alaskaman Extreme Triathlon in July.

"I was really hoping for top 3, but anything can happen out there," Stull said. "I was really, really nervous going into today."

After finishing the race and congratulating Laine on her win, Stull turned around to cheer Chelf into the winners chute. Stull said her Chain Reactions Racing teammate reminds her of herself 10 years ago.

"(Chelf) started in the 50s with Gold Nugget and then she was top 10 last year and now she's third today … I love seeing that happen," Stull said.

Laine said she's not sure yet if she'll go for a fourth straight title next year. A former assistant swimming coach at UAF, Laine is moving from Fairbanks to Portland to be closer to family and to pursue new triathlon and coaching opportunities, she said.


"I think I'm ready to be a head (swimming) coach if there's an opportunity like that out there," Laine said. "Just taking a chance and hoping that I land on my feet down there."

Top 15

1) Kinsey Laine 1:04:23; 2) Amber Stull 1:09:04; 3) Megan Chelf 1:10:47; 4) Laura Gardner 1:11:46; 5) Danelle Winn 1:11:47; 6) Emma Tarbath 1:12:06; 7) Abby Jahn 1:12:09; 8) K.C. Kent 1:12:15; 9) Sara Miller 1:12:32; 10) Shannon Titzel 1:12:43; 11) Katelyn Stearns 1:12:46; 12) Ellie Mitchell 1:13:11; 13) Kendal Williams 1:13:28; 14) Kristina Eaton 1:13:34; 15) Stephanie Arnold 1:13:58.

Stephan Wiebe

Stephan Wiebe writes about all things Alaska sports.