Showing his Hustle: Hemstad outpaces Koch to win Highline Hustle

Hemstad outpaces Koch to win Highline Hustle

Men’s Highline Hustle winner Erik Hemstad, right, used a strong ride during the bike portion of Saturday’s sprint triathlon at Highline State Park to defeat defending champ Kevin Koch.

A swimmer in the fast group exits the water Saturday after the 500-meter swim portion of the Highline Hustle.

Women’s winner Mandy Harter defended her title, lowering her time from 1 hour, 18 minutes, 23 seconds to 1:17.59.

Brittany Reimers cruises along during the 16-mile bike portion of Saturday’s Highline Hustle sprint triathlon.

The new guy was too fast.

Erik Hemstad, who moved to Grand Junction about a year ago, was too much for defending Highline Hustle champion Kevin Koch to keep pace with.

Hemstad, 29, of Grand Junction took first place in the eighth annual sprint triathlon Saturday morning at Highline Lake State Park in 1 hour, 10 minutes, 25 seconds. Koch, 37, of Grand Junction was second in 1:11:57.

Mandy Harter, 32, of Grand Junction won the women’s overall in 1:17:59, beating her first-place time of 1:18:22 last year. Her friend, Stacie Schreiner, 32, of Fruita took second in 1:23:24.

Samuel Jordan’s team won the relay in 1:18:29, beating Greg Hewitt’s team by seven seconds.

Hemstad won the men’s overall with a strong 16-mile bike ride after the 500-meter swim. He kept his lead through the 3.3-mile run.

“It was a lot of fun,” Hemstad said. “There was excellent support. I took a wrong turn, and people directed me back on.”

The mining engineer and Ironman Triathlete was going toward the lake off the bike. He was redirected after going a couple of feet past the transition turn.

Once he was on the bike, it was pretty much over.

“I usually struggle with the swim,” Hemstad said. “I’m probably a better cyclist than any of the other disciplines.

“There were quite a few people in front of me going on to the bike. Then, I was the first one going into transition off the bike.”

Koch, a four-time Highline Hustle winner, didn’t have enough gas in the tank Saturday.

“I was just tired,” Koch said. “Sometimes it’s a tough day, and today was a tough day for me.”

Koch ran a 50-kilometer trail run a week ago.

“My legs were still sore (Friday), so I knew it was going to be a rough day,” Koch said. “I didn’t have a very good swim, and that really put me at a disadvantage. I was catching Erik until the turnaround. Then, he saw me, and I couldn’t make up any ground after that.

“After the bike turnaround, he held even. On the run, he put time on me. I was just too tired.”

Robert Conley, 38, of Delta placed third in 1:15:57. Jim Ettenger was fourth in 1:16:35.

“I was right in where I was hoping to get,” Conley said. “Those guys are really strong on the bike. They pass me like I’m not pedaling.”

Early on the bike, Conley had a brief taste of being first for the first time in his five years of competing in the event.

“My whole thing is keeping perspective,” Conley said. “It’s not about winning. It’s about having a good race and being happy how I did, and I am.”

Harter and Schreiner didn’t know where they placed and didn’t care.

“We just try to have a good time,” Harter said. “Everybody’s always so nice. The swim’s always a little interesting because there are so many people trying to get out (of the water). Once you get past that, it’s a beautiful course. The goal is to not get a flat, get out of the water and have fun. It’s a well-run race.”

The two friends rely on their friendship to push each other. They are two weeks apart in age.

“I always try to catch her,” Schreiner said.

“And I always try to keep her from catching me,” Harter said.

They usually start each day with an hour’s run before the sun rises.

“Five a.m., whenever her husband’s not working,” Harter said. “It’s our social hour.”

“We get to do things like this, and it makes it all worth it,” Schreiner said. “It was a good day. I’m happy.”

“This one is a lot of fun,” Harter said. “You go to some, and it’s pretty competitive. (Here) everyone’s like, ‘Good morning.’ ”


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