It’s just days until the gun goes off on the Big Island, and there’s plenty of speculation about who’ll leave with the crown this year. But don’t leave once the tape is broken, because the real score won’t be settled quite yet. Athletes from each of America’s armed forces—the founders of the Ironman—will be along shortly to determine who’s the baddest. Here’s an introduction to the athletes and their cases for why they’ll dominate their sister services.
The lineup looks hotter than the lava fields. If you see them as they storm the beach, take the hill on the Hawi turnaround, or double-time down the marathon course, be sure to cheer your favorite branch of the Armed Forces on.
Lieutenant Colonel (Select) Scott Poteet
Occupation: F-16 Pilot
Current Assignment: Air Officer Commanding, Cadet Squadron 2, USAF Academy
Intel Report: Known by his call sign “Kidd” in the fighter community, Scott took his afterburners with him to Ironman St. George and Ironman Wisconsin this year, taking first and second in his age groups respectively.
Captain Jamie Turner
Occupation: C-17 Pilot
Current Assignment: 317th Airlift Squadron, Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina
Intel Report: You name the item and the distance, and this C-17 will haul it. So will Turner. She’s carried gold and silver hardware away from three races this year, including wins at two short course races in the Netherlands and a first place finish at the Great Florida Challenge Half-Iron Distance Race.
Captain Erica Chabalko
Occupation: Medical Service Officer
Current Duty Assignment: Graduate Student, Delta Company 187th Medical Battalion, Baylor University
Intel Report: Chabalko is no stranger to racing her comrades in arms. She took fifth at this year’s Olympic Distance Armed Forces Triathlon Championships. She’s also had time to get her distance work in, placing fourth and fifth at Ironman 70.3 New Orleans and Buffalo, respectively. This is her first trip to Kona, but don’t expect her to take that as an excuse to let any of the other ladies pass her by.
Captain Robert Killian
Occupation: Signal Officer
Current Duty Assignment: Signal Officer, 2-135th Aviation Regiment
Intel Report: Killian finished twelfth overall at this year’s Ironman Louisville with a time of 9:33. That’s a marked improvement over his 10:12 finish at Kona last year, and the heat in Louisville was killer. Anyone not watching out for him this year could find themselves getting passed in a hurry.
Captain Scott Jones: Defending Military Men’s Champion
Current Duty Assignment: Commanding Officer, Theater Anti Submarine Warfare Detachment, Point Hueneme, California
Intel Report: Youth and athleticism are no match for old age and treachery, and going up against Jones is a treacherous proposition. He’s a USAT All-American and coached the All Armed Forces tri team that competed in the World Military Games in India in 2007. The hours at a desk associated with a command billet haven’t slowed him down, either. He finished 2nd and 3rd at Ironman 70.3 Racine and St. Croix this year, respectively.
Commander Kristin Barnes: 2008 Fifth-Place Finisher.
Occupation: Naval Flight Officer
Current Assignment: Deputy Director, Fleet Electronic Warfare Center, Navy Cyber Forces, Little Creek, Virginia
Intel Report: Barnes could very well make for a full crew compliment and a Navy sweep this year. She finished fifth in 2008, and got in a full year of racing leading up to Kona, including Timberman 70.3.
Lieutenant Colonel Hunter Hobson
Occupation: F/A-18 Pilot
Current Assignment: Force Management Branch Chief, J8, Joint Staff, Pentagon
Intel Report: With other USMC triathletes focusing on the Armed Forces Championships this year, Hobson finds himself alone in the fight. As if he foresaw this, he’s spent the year making incredible preparations. He finished Ironman Canada in 10:21—an improvement of more than an hour over last year’s time in Kona. He also qualified for the 70.3 championships with a 4:55 finish at Eagleman.
Lieutenant Rachel Beckmann: 2008 Fourth Place Finisher
Occupation: Deck Watch / Dive Officer
Current Assignment: Chemical Engineering Student, Oregon State University
Intel Report: It’s been two years since Beckmann posted her 11:49 finish in Kona. She was just ahead of Navy’s Kristin Barnes, so the rematch makes this the marquee event. Her training this year will make her performance especially interesting. She’s won several events, but most of them have been XTERRA. Still, she’s won her share of road races, and looks strong coming back to the island.
Master Chief Petty Officer Mike Ferreira: Last Year’s Fourth-Place Finisher. Runner-Up in 2008.
Occupation: Avionics Electrical Technician
Current Assignment: Coast Guard District Fourteen Command Master Chief
Intel Report: Tell the officers to move over, there’s a Master Chief on deck. Ferreira is serious business, too. With fourteen races completed this year, he’s taken more starting lines than several of the other competitors put together. He’s taken several finish lines, as well. He’s often in the top ten overall, and regularly wins his age group. Seeing him on the course could very well mean you’re about to have a bad day. The only thing worse would be not seeing him on the course—meaning you’re already having a bad day.