Runnin’ with Rani: Cody Ranfranz, 14, makes history at Peaman biathlon event


It was bound to happen, it just was a matter of time. After numerous runner-up finishes at Peaman’s swim-run events, Cody Ranfranz finally clinched his first overall title, winning Sunday’s Peaman Red, White, and Blue Biathlon in a time of 38 minutes and 15 seconds.

Unknown to Ranfranz, crossing the finish line in first hurled him straight into the record books and caused quite the stir among many who follow Peaman race results.

At just 14 years, his incredible win made him the youngest victor in all 26 years of Peaman biathlon history.

“I finally did it!” Ranfranz exclaimed shortly after he crossed the finish line. “I’m happy because I put a lot of hard work toward this. Now I just have to see if I can keep the streak going.”

Ranfranz, who will be a sophomore at Konawaena High School and swims for the Wildcats, said he began swimming at age 12 with Steve Borowski’s Kona Aquatics age-group team. After entering his first Peaman event primarily for the swim portion nearly a year and half ago, Ranfranz was “hooked” after realizing how much fun he had completing both the swim and run segments.

As with most beginning athletes in search of satisfying their curiosity in the multisport world, Ranfranz was soon seen toeing the line among participants — two, three, four times his age — at Team Mango events, 2013 Lavaman Keauhou and 2014 Lavaman Waikoloa triathlons.

“I come out because I really enjoy it,” Ranfranz said. “And I enjoy being around all the people that support and help me to get better. I’m also thankful to my parents being there at every single event that I do.”

A typical week for Ranfranz includes swimming five days per week with the Kona Aquatics age group and masters swim team, and running 4-5 days on his own or with Big Island Running Company’s run group. On the Saturday before the Peaman race, Ranfranz awoke at the crack of dawn for a brisk 11-mile run — not too shabby considering the lifestyles of most typical teenagers during summer break.

Those who know Ranfranz consider him to be a bit shy, but don’t let that fool you — his quiet demeanor can be deceiving. Poised with maturity, patience and an inner confidence beyond his years, Ranfranz has slowly built his way to the top through hard work, determination and a burning desire to compete among the best, just like any elite athlete.

Sunday’s Independence-themed biathlon event featured a half-mile swim in Kailua Bay followed by a speedy 3.5-mile run on Alii Drive. Several of the island’s usual “pea-ticipants” showed up, including Karlyn Pipes, Michael DeCarli, Jon Jokiel, Harry Yoshida, Chris Prater, Adam Ankrum and Ranfranz.

Pipes, who is known for her swimming prowess, was quick to the front and propelled her way back to exit the water first in 13:30. Not too far behind was Ranfranz, who was followed by a pack made up of Jason Freitas, Prater and Ryan Lopossa.

While many athletes often excel in one sport or another, such as swimming or running, Ranfranz competes as a double threat with the ability to back up a fast swim with a blazing fast run. At the halfway turn, Ranfranz threw in one final surge on Pipes to take the lead, and glanced over his shoulder a few times to see if anyone would respond. No one seemed to be answering.

“I gotta keep this lead and keep myself ahead,” Ranfranz said he told himself during his run back to Kaiakeakua Beach. “I can do this!”

Although I was able to take the lead from Pipes in the women’s division and began to make ground on Ranfranz, it would not be enough as I crossed the finish line in second overall, first female, at 38:30.

Following Ranfranz for the men was Freitas in 39:04, and Kealakehe Waverider’s Prater in third at 41:19.

Pipes finished at 39:34 as second female, with Ayo Lismark rounding the women’s podium at 46:09.

An honorable mention goes to Lori Montgomery, who topped the fins division in a great time of 52:47, just two weeks after breaking her collarbone in a bike accident.

In the Split Pea relay division, the amazing mother-daughter team of Kristi and Kristiana Van Pernis easily won with a combined time of 46:52. Jim Budde finished first in the swim race in 15:19, and Diane Houghton topped the run with 27:50.

With the brother-sister duo of Kanaipono and Lainey Eckart taking a break from the Pea Wee race, doors were open for new winners. In the male division, Aiden Kiernan topped the 200-yard swim and 1-mile run with an overall time of 15:31. Next was Brandon Kiernan at 16:05, with Colby Ellefson a few strides back in 16:10.

Jacqui Kiernan decided to make it a family affair by claiming first in the female division in 19:08. While Annabel and Emily Ellefson raced together, finishing 20:04 and 20:05 respectfully.

Claiming the Pea Wee Split Pea relay division was none other than Peaman and Chico with their team time of 20:54. Lilo Fyrileiv whipped through the 200-yard swim in 3:36, and Malachi Lehmann blazed through the 1-mile run in 7:44.

Sunday turned out to be a perfect day for all pea-ticipants — sunny skies and tranquil waters. With his first Peaman title under his belt and his talent, Ranfranz’ future can only be just as bright.