A familiar face. A familiar result.
Longtime race veteran and consistent champion, Jon Clark took home first place in the Semana Nautica 5-mile Biathlon at East Beach Thursday evening — to the surprise of few.
“Back in his prime he was the guy to just win it,” said Tony Sholl, the head of aquatics for Santa Barbara Parks and Recreation, as well as an organizer of the event.
Close to 200 people gathered on the beach in front of the Cabrillo West Parking lot for the kick-off event of the 82nd Semana Nautica summer sports festival.
Six athletes competed in this year’s biathlon, with most returning competitors, although it marked a return for Clark, who had not competed in the event since 2011.
President of the James Bower Foundation and a former lifeguard, Clark, 58, has competed in the biathlon since the early 1980s. In his first 10 years, he went 10-for-10, choosing to race less consistently after that. His last win in the event came in 2010.
There is no special trick to Clark’s stamina.
“I just swim and run and train for triathlons and whatnot. Yoga. Just regular stuff,” Clark said.
This year, Clark said the race was a little more difficult. Competitors ran a four-mile course from the starting line to the Clark Estate, doubling back through Stearns Wharf, followed by a mile swim back to the start.
“With the run being soft sand, that was a lot harder,” said Mr. Clark.
The run was miserable, said Mr. Clark, but the currents on the way back made the swim strong and fun. Second-place winner Ryan Wegner overtook Mr. Clark for a portion of the swim, but could not maintain his lead over the 30-plus-year veteran.
Mr. Clark came in first at 52:59, Mr. Wegner was second in 54:36 and John Dorty took third at 55:55. Heather Royer, the only one to compete in the women’s race, came in at 56:54.
The biathlon coincided with the weekly ocean races put on by Reef & Run, who helped run the event.
Reef & Run hosts an event every Thursday on East Beach, with three swim race lengths — 500 meters, 1,000 meters and one mile. Individual races cost $15 each.
Many of the participants Thursday were season-pass holders, Jane Cairnes, who helped found Reef & Run in 2009, told the News-Press as she took down the numbers of participants wadding onto the beach. Reef & Run competitors have formed a community of athletes, making the gathering Thursday seem like more of a family barbeque than an athletic event.
“I know a lot of people. This is like my little family down here, I love it,” said Cairnes.
One of the oldest members of the family is Sylvia Glenn. Now 81, Glenn has been swimming since she was nine. When she was young, swimming lessons were only offered to children older than nine, and since she was a year ahead in school, Glenn had to wait as all her classmates got to swim before her.
“My dad said I’d swim the rest of my life making up for it,” she laughed.
Glenn comes to the Reef & Run every week from Santa Maria, saying she’s become close with the group.
“I really enjoy it. Jane is so nice and so organized. This is my social life,” said Glenn.
Reef & Run will not meet next week due to the Semana Nautica. However, athletes and sports-lovers can still get their fill at several Semana Nautica events this weekend.
Saturday’s events include the one-mile ocean swim and CBVA Men’s and Women’s Open Volleyball Tournaments at 9 a.m. on East Beach. The three-mile ocean swim will be at 9 a.m. Sunday at East Beach.