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Team Tom, Team in Training and Triathlon Clubs make impact at Lavaman

Updated: 
April 11, 2016 - 1:18pm

WAIKOLOA — A smattering of pink dotted the finish line of the Lavaman Triathlon at Waikoloa Beach Sunday.

It didn’t emanate from the sun-blasted skin of triathletes or spectators. It had nothing to do with a picturesque Hawaiian sunset. It was all about Team Tom, as 45 pink shirts in total came out in force to pay tribute to man, Tom Callero, whose presence at the event was shared the only way it could be — in spirit.

The 47-year-old husband, father and foster parent, who worked as a bartender at the Four Season’s Beach Tree Bar for the last 15 years, fell victim to a traffic crash on March 3 as he drove home from work. The injuries he sustained claimed his life.

Team Tom was started by John and LeAnn Mothershed, annual guests of the hotel, who wanted to honor their fallen friend. Forty-three others, all friends or family of Callero, felt the same. Callero’s wife, Jodie, said that last year she, her husband and a friend participated in Lavaman as part of a relay team. This year, Tom was going to undertake the entire race himself.

“They love him, and they wanted to do this run with him,” said Jodie, her eyes welling with tears. “We scattered his ashes here, so he is with us in spirit. It just means a lot.”

The idea for the pink shirts uniting those who supported the Callero family Sunday were inspired by a drink at the Beach Tree Bar named in Callero’s honor a few months before he passed away.

“They were coming up with new drinks one day, and he happened to be wearing a pink shirt,” Jodie explained. “Someone said, ‘Let’s call that drink Tom’s Pink Shirt,’ because the drink had strawberries in it and was kind of pinkish. That name stuck.”

Jodie, her children and Team Tom are still waiting for closure by way of official details from police, as the investigation into Tom’s crash remains ongoing.

All Aboard the Train

Team in Training — the most charitable organization at Lavaman this year, which surpassed the $1 million mark yet again — is an endurance sports training program that raises money in an effort to combat blood cancers.

Ryan Hatcher — who works with Team in Training — said in the 16 years the group has participated in Lavaman, it has raised a total of $19.79 million on behalf of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. This year, 280 participants combined to bring in $1.255 million to combat the diseases.

The charity is open to individuals or groups alike, who provide fundraising goals and in return are trained by coaches for marathons, cycling races or triathlons. Participants are awarded different amenities based on the amount they pledge to bring in, including paid trips to the races, shipping for their equipment and hotel stays.

Team in Training is primarily a North-American based organization, but sponsors fundraising efforts across the globe in a variety of athletic competitions.

“We have teams that will rally around a blood cancer patient, or we will have a corporation who encourages its employees to participate,” Hatcher said. “There is a team called team NARS, all of whom are employees of NARS cosmetics company. That team alone has raised $180,000 for the weekend.”

The top individual fundraiser was Mark Herkert, a blood cancer survivor, who raised more than $19,000 on his own in 2016. He, along with several others, was honored for his work at an inspiration dinner Saturday night at the Hilton Waikoloa Village.

A Friendly Competition

Five years ago, Kristin Old noticed something missing from Lavaman.

“I have always loved triathlons,” said Old, a math teacher and the triathlon club coach at Kealakehe High School. “I moved to the Big Island because of it. I thought there was a vacancy in the sport because there was no youth participating in it. And we live in the mecca of the sport here on the Big Island, so I decided to get the kids involved.”

Ten students from Kealakehe High School participated. They were joined by 12 students from first-year participant Hawaii Preparatory Academy and three students from Konawaena — two of whom were engaged in a bit of a rivalry.

When asked about his previous Lavaman experience on Saturday at the BIIF track meet, Lawrence Barrett — a 16-year old junior at Konawaena and a member of the swim, track and cross country teams — said he “did pretty okay.”

Then Barrett looked at Cody Ranfranz, a fellow junior and Barrett’s teammate on all three sporting squads, and blurted out, “I beat Cody’s time the first year he did it.”

When asked if there was a little competition between the two, Ranfranz thought about it for a second and said, “I guess so.”

“Friendly competition,” Barrett added.

The triathlon coach at Konawaena, David Wild, said he was more concerned about his students one day surpassing him in the Lavaman competition — and that may be where the true rivalry lies.

“I am truly afraid of that,” said Wild, who also competed Sunday. “They are killer swimmers and runners. It is the cycling that I kind of had to push them, but they put it together themselves. On their trajectories, they will be faster than me eventually. Guaranteed.”

As for the 2016 Lavaman, Wild still beat all his triathlon club members. Barrett edged out Ranfranz by a couple of seconds.

Volunteerism makes Lavaman go

A total of 600 volunteers helped stage the triathlon at Waikoloa Beach Sunday, working in the water, on the roads and under tents to provide service and safety for the approximately 1,500 competitors.

Derinda Thatcher, a 26-year resident of Kailua-Kona, served as a director at the finish line. She arranged medal distribution, provided food for the finishers as well as medical attention for any who needed it, and then ushered triathletes off to a massage tent.

“It is an Olympic-distance race so it is doable for the average person,” Thatcher said of the community connection to Lavaman. “It’s about health. It’s about dedication. And it’s about just having fun and the aloha spirit.”

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