Koch hustles past ‘Speedo Man’

Harter dominates women's race, wins fourth straight Highline Hustle

Kevin Koch celebrates his victory in the Highline Hustle Sprint Triathlon on Saturday. After finishing second to Erik Hemstad last year, Koch gained a measure of revenge this year by beating Hemstad, who finished second.

Mandy Harter finishes strong to claim her fourth straight Highline Hustle women’s race.

Grand Junction triathlete Erik Hemstad, from a distance, looks naked competing in triathlons.

His skull-and-crossbones Speedo, reserved for local races, is one part innovation, one part “old school.” He bikes and runs in it, and he says he wants to start a trend with it.

After his second-place finish at the ninth annual Highline Hustle sprint triathlon at Highline Lake State Park on Saturday, it also earned him the superhero nickname “Speedo Man” from spectators.

“I tried to get other people to join with me, and well, they kind of left me hanging,” said Hemstad, who won the Highline Hustle last year. “I’ve worn (a Speedo) for a while. It’s just something fun I do for local races. You have to spice up things like this.”

Hemstad finished with a time of 1 hour, 13:50.8 minutes. He was topped by Grand Junction’s Kevin Koch, who finished with a time of 1:11:37 and reclaimed first place after Hemstad prevented him from defending his title last year. Koch also is coming off a top-five finish at the HITS Triathlon three weeks ago at Highline Lake State Park.

Koch was competing in his eighth Highline Hustle and notched his fifth victory. He finished second in the other three.

“You can do a local race like this, especially a sprint, more often, and it’s a lot more fun,” Koch said. “It’s great being able to see everyone, and you can usually wrap these up in an hour-and-a-half, where some of the half triathlons take four to five hours.”

Mandy Harter of Grand Junction was the top female finisher for the fourth year in a row, posting a time of 1:20:30.6. She competes in triathlons of varying distances around Colorado and has competed in the Highline Hustle each of the past five years, she said.

“It’s just really well-run, and the people are really nice,” Harter said. “The people are great, and you see a lot of families. It’s cool.”

Shon Birch, recreation coordinator for the city of Grand Junction, said participation in the city-hosted Highline Hustle was steadily rising year-to-year, but he estimated the event lost “20 to 30” racers for 2013, but it added seven more teams than the previous year.

“I think some of the people that came here in the past might have jumped in that HITS Triathlon,” Birch said of the series of triathlons that took place May 19-20 at Highline Lake State Park. “There are people here that did both. We get a lot of phenomenal athletes that come out here that have impressive times.”

Despite the drop in numbers, Birch maintains the Highline Hustle ultimately appeals to different groups of people than a large event such as the HITS Triathlon.

“It’s local, we have a lot of people coming back year after year,” he said. “You see a lot of people coming out as part of a team and then coming back maybe two years later and competing as an individual. It’s a great triathlon to try on for size, I guess, and it’s really perfect for first-timers to see if this is something you want to try.”


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