As Aiyana Smith-Williams approached the finish line she was met by raucous applause from the crowd. However, for her, it was a time of introspection.
“Every breath I took was an opportunity for me to think about those that have taken their last breath and for those that have yet to take their first,” Smith-Williams said.
Smith-Williams, a member of the Shinnecock Nation, lost her nephew Brian Bess last Saturday to a motor-vehicle accident. She arrived on Saturday at the third annual Turbo Tri in East Hampton, but was unsure if she was going to compete. Her daughter, NoShota, changed her mind.
“I did it especially for my daughter,” said Smith-Williams. “She encouraged me because she is in the i-tri girls program at SIS (Southampton Intermediate School). I also did it for all the women who have body issues. I am not as physically fit as some of the other racers, but I am thankful for the ability to complete something like this. It showed that anyone can do this. At the end of the race, [NoShota] called me Aiyana ‘I can do anything’ Smith-Williams.”
For founder and executive director Theresa Roden, that moment when Smith-Williams and her daughter embraced immediately after the finish line captured the essence of the race.
“I love the sport and I think it’s amazing, but for me it’s a race that absolutely anyone can do. To see someone who doesn’t think there’s any way they can do it, but has the courage to get out there with the super athletes, do their thing and then to see their smiles and the pride that they have, well that gets me every time,” said Roden.
A total of 66 competitors participated in the short triathlon. This event includes a 300-yard swim in Gardiner’s Bay, followed by a seven-mile bike ride and a 1.5-mile run.
Michael Petrzela, 39, was the top overall finisher with a time of 35:07.14. Following him was Spencer Korwin, 26, (36:08.44) and Pierce Hodges, 29, (37:21.07). The top female finisher, eighth overall, was Tarra Powers, 37, with a time of 41:30.53 followed by Angelika Cruz, 44, (42:15.30) and Joanne Kravitz, 46, (44:13.88). The top three male and female finishers all received awards.
Roden and the other organizers also recognized two participants for the second annual “Spirit of i-tri,” which is given to those who embody perseverance and spirit of the race. Smith-Williams and Leon Robinson took home the award this year.
“Robinson was very similar to [Smith-Williams] in his struggle to complete the race, but just like her, he came across with a huge smile,” said Roden.
The event was catered by Panera Bread and dessert was served by Andrea Terry, the owner of The Lobster Roll Restaurant in Amagansett. East Hampton Volunteer Ocean Rescue Corps helped run the event and Roden said much of the feedback was that the event was as organized it has ever been and that the course was pristine. She also pointed to a little luck as the weather was spectacular and the bay was very calm. They have yet to tally the money raised, but she did say that they raised more than $10,000 in sponsorships alone.
“It’s just a perfect event for anybody who has ever considered doing something like that, because it’s very doable. But also for seasoned triathletes, it gives them a chance to really show their stuff and go all out,” said Roden.