Spectators were greeted with anticipation and excitement as Saturday’s Lava Kids Keiki Beach Dash and Youth Aquathon took center stage during a weekend full of vibrant Lavaman festivities featuring a health and fitness expo, a competitive 5K sunset run, and the challenging Olympic Distance triathlon.
Even multisport super heroes Lava Girl and Lava Man made appearances — dressed in full body costumes, using their super powers and magic capes to energize the crowd before the start of the competitive Keiki events.
Susan Nixon along with her husband Jason, who have been race directors for the successful Lava Kids events over the last five years, enjoyed watching the little ones compete and finish with a sense of accomplishment.
“I love to see the kids have fun, to be challenged, and to be inspired to come back and do it again,” Nixon said. “It’s a lot of work, but the payoff in the end is so worth it.”
At midmorning, all eyes turned their attention to the minisized athletes with their tiny numbered arms, race suits, and even custom race bibs as our island’s top youth toed the line for a short dip in the pristine waters of Keauhou Bay followed by a quick out and back dash through the grounds of the Sheraton Kona Resort &Spa.
In the shorter 100-meter swim and 1K run for ages 7 thru 10, Kanaipono Eckart — who has won four Peaman biathlon events this year in the Pea Wee division — blazed the course in an outstanding time of 6 minutes and 23 seconds. Second to follow in the boy’s division was Elijah Hall — another top five finisher in Pea Wee division — in a stellar 6:49. One tick back was Jake Maki who sprinted his way in for third at 6:50.
Battling it out for fourth overall was Johan Zarate and the top female, Lainey Eckart, who raced neck and neck that made for an exciting sprint finish. In the end neither would give, both crossing the line in a photo-finish tie of 6:53. Rounding out the top five was Brady Thoman in a great time of 7:18.
Following Lainey in the female division was Jada Keen, finishing in a swift time of 7:21. Third place went to Kulani Paikuli-Campbell in 7:48, Caileen Teramoto in 8:21, and Maile Imonen – daughter of former pro triathlete Brent Imonen – in a fantastic time of 8:23.
The longer course of 200-meter swim and 2K run for the older kids aged 11–14 years showcased a great duel between Colorado’s brother and sister, Zack and Lindsay Beckwith. After the splashing and dashing was complete, Zack outpaced his sister Lindsay to finish first in 8:47. Lindsay followed in second overall and first for the females in a speedy time of 9:52.
Kai Fasciano was next to cross the finish line in 9:54, with Kahoku Benson right on his heels in third place at 9:59. Fourth and fifth went to Caleb Westfall in 10:02 and Brock Imonen in a great time of 10:04.
In the female division, the race for second turned out to be a good one between Joran Zarate and Ada Benson. Zarate dashed to the line ahead of Benson, finishing 10:20 to 10:21. Fourth went to Audrey Nixon in a time of 10:35, and topping the female top five was Bree Foster in 12:03.
The humble roots of Lava Kids began in 2002, with Gerry Rott – race director of the prestigious Lavaman Waikoloa Triathlon – who decided to create a fun event for the kids a day before watching their parents battle it out in the hot lava fields.
The idea for Lava Kids is for children to compete in age-appropriate swim and run distances — with emphasis placed on participation — allowing beginners to experience a positive and fun introduction to the sport. As the Waikoloa race grew, so did the field of Lava Kids, which quickly became the featured attraction for athletes with young family members.
With the addition of Lavaman Keauhou in 2009, Rott continued the popular Lava Kids tradition, giving our island’s talented youth a second opportunity at the short Aquathon distance.
“As Lavaman has grown it has become more and more my desire to have Lava Kids the legacy of Lavaman and to really develop a program that promotes healthy active lifestyles for kids on a year round basis,” Rott said.
Recently, through the support of a few local businesses and funds derived by Lavaman Charity Slots, Rott is planning to expand the Lava Kids program on a year-round basis to inspire and motivate our island’s youth through sport come next year. More exciting details is yet to come.
Another Lavaman fun event was the Sunset 5K run/walk at the Sheraton Kona Resort &Spa at Keauhou Bay. Participants took part in some swift action on the challenging one-looped course that traversed over asphalt, green fairways, off-road trails, and beachfront pathways.
In the men’s division, Thomas Vonach ran away with the win finishing in a speedy time of 17:36. Next was Canadian Shaif Jetha in second place at 18:58, with Jason Sii crossing the line in 19:27 to round out the men’s top three.
Honolulu’s Jennifer Ward took top honors in the women’s division, finishing in a great time of 20:49. Kailua-Kona’s Holly Byrd followed a few strides back in 21:08, and Kealakekua’s Laura Ankrum took third at 21:38.
This Sunday is Frozen Pea Production’s Post Pigout Peamania. Start time is 8:03 a.m. at Kaiakeakua Beach for the free ¼-mile swim, 2-mile clockwise run/walk, followed by a ¼-mile swim, 2-mile counter clockwise run/walk. Shorter Pea Wea course is always available for the kids. No sign-up, just sign-out when finished.
Then on Sunday, Dec. 22, Hawaii Sport Events presents the 9th Annual Jingle Bell Beach Run at the Kailua Pier. Start time is 7:30 a.m. for this Christmas-themed event featuring a 5K and 1-Mile run/walk, and Santa’s Keiki Dash for kids 6 years and under. Early entry of $20 ends Saturday for the 5K, $25 thereafter until 12/21. For registration details and more information visit www.kona5K.com.