Rani Henderson | A Queen’s Legacy


Queen Kaahumanu, the powerful, influential and favorite wife of King Kamehameha I, was a woman well ahead of her time. During the male-dominated era of the Hawaiian Kingdom, Kaahumanu would become the first to share power as queen consort and regent. She championed the rights of Native Hawaiian women — helping to lift many of the taboos placed upon them at that time.

Today, Queen Kaahumanu’s legacy continues to thrive throughout Hawaii in numerous forms. Queen Kaahumanu Highway is famously known in the world of endurance athletes as the seemingly endless stretch of road, connecting Kailua-Kona and Kawaihae.

With alluring black lava fields adorned with white coral rocks, panoramic mountain views of Hualalai, Kohala, Mauna Kea, and Maui’s Haleakala as a backdrop, it’s no wonder the highway has become an epicenter of media attention — particularly during the Ironman World Triathlon Championship. Additionally — and quite fittingly, it also happens to be the name of a Kona triathlon club — the Queen Kaahumanu Triathlon Club.

Sunday, the Queen Kaahumanu Triathlon Club used this famous road to host a challenging duathlon (8K run, 40K bike, 8K run) beginning at West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery. As expected, warm and fickle wind conditions hovered over the course giving participants a preview of how it may feel come October 12.

Last year’s runner-up Dave Burger and Kailua-Kona’s Jon Jokiel both used the training event as a preparation for next month’s Ironman. Though the duo had a friendly, but close battle during the first two legs of the race, it would ultimately come down to the final 8K of the run to determine whether Burger would hang on to a small lead.

Jokiel, known for his strength on the run, closed the gap on Burger, but fell short of real estate, leaving Burger in first place with a great time of 3 hours 10 minutes and 1 second. Jokiel sprinted in 29 seconds later at 3:10:30, and Jeremy Withrow followed in third place with a solid time of 3:21:34.

The race for fourth turned out to be another good duel between the event organizer, Daniel Hodel and Koa Kea. After nearly four hours of quad-busting racing, Hodel would have more gas left in the tank, finishing fourth at 3:46:35, with Koa Kea close behind at 3:47:19, and John Ferdico at 4:08:23 for sixth place overall.

Changing things up a bit were the husband-wife team of Kris and Kym Kiser, both doing a revised course (5-mile run, 40K bike, 2-mile run) finishing with a time of 2:15:00. Tammy Huckabone decided on a revised course as well (3-mile run, 20-mile bike, 5-mile run), taking her 3:06:22 to complete the challenge. Rounding out a morning of creative course modifications, Lava Peoples chose to run 14.26 miles, finishing in 2 hours and 40 minutes.

Over on Oahu, in true Queen Kaahumanu spirit, the Na Wahine Festival celebrated its 14th annual all-women’s triathlon that included a sprint triathlon, super sprint, duathlon, and swim and spin. From experienced athletes to first-timers, women of diverse backgrounds, ages, and fitness levels gathered on the shores of Queen’s Surf Beach in Waikiki.

Kona’s Bree Wee, along with Kealakehe Waverider Triathlon team members Leahi Camacho and Alexis DeCarli, represented the Big Island well, earning podium spots in Sunday’s Sprint Triathlon that consisted of a short 500-meter swim, 12-mile bike, and 3.1-mile run.

Early morning rainy conditions and nervous energy quickly dissipated to reveal picturesque views of Oahu’s popular Waikiki shoreline, Kapiolani Park, and the famed Diamond Head Crater towering in the afterglow of the morning sunrise.

Teen swimming sensation Camacho, in her triathlon debut, exited the swim first followed closely by Wee, hitting the swim-to-bike transition together. A speedy transition helped Wee to charge out onto the two-looped bike course first and quickly pulled away from the rest of the field before the final 5K sprint. Having a pancake-flat run course helped Wee to finish in Kapiolani Park with a great time of 57 minutes and 56 seconds.

Honolulu’s Marion Summerer ,who was third out of the water, worked her way into second place as she passed Camacho during the run to finish at 1:01:57. Rounding out an impressive third place finish in the elite division was Camacho, who held her position and sprinted her way across the line at 1:08:28.

Fifteen-year-old Waverider team member DeCarli, who also was competing in her first triathlon, put a cap on a successful day for our Big Island women, as she cruised through the finish line in 1:38:45 for third place in the 14-to-19 women’s age group.

Congratulations to our Big Island girls. Queen Kaahumanu would be proud to see the evolution of women’s sports within the Hawaiian Islands today.

Saturday the Hawaii Cycling Club will continue its Individual Time Trial series at West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery. Start time is 8 a.m. for the free event and registration begins at 7 a.m.

On Sept. 29, Team Mango will hold its Pre-Ironman Triathlon Challenge at the Kailua Pier. The race begins at 7 a.m. with registration beginning at 5:30 a.m. For more information about the course and how to sign up, visit teammango.org.