Triathlon: Siebert, Place triumph in Mighty North Fork Triathlon

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Christie O'Hara of Montauk and Leo Ullman of Sands Point rounded the first turn during the biking phase of the 13th annual Mighty North Fork Triathlon.

Coming in second place in a triathlon is an achievement most people would undoubtedly feel proud about, but it was getting a little tiring for Ryan Siebert.

“I’ve been struggling,” the 20-year-old Patchogue man said. “Every race lately, I’ve been getting second place, second place. It’s just a little out of reach.”

Until Sunday morning, that is.

Siebert returned to his winning form and — as did Jenn Place — won the Mighty North Fork Triathlon for a second time.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Ryan Siebert of Patchogue was the first triathlete to leave the water. He won the North Fork race for the second year in a row.

Wearing the No. 1 bib he earned the year before, Siebert was the first finisher to cross the line at Cedar Beach in Southold for the second year in a row. He completed the 500-meter swim, eight-mile bike ride and three-and-a-half-mile run in 46 minutes 54 seconds. That improved upon the 48:53 winning time he clocked last year.

Siebert’s margin of victory on Sunday was unusually considerable for a sprint triathlon. The runner-up, Kyle Wailes of New York City, was nearly four minutes behind him at 50:38.

But that didn’t slow Siebert. “When you’re in front, you’re just running like you’re running from the cops,” he said.

Following the leaders were Ken Robins of Cutchogue (51:31), Chris Bauer of Sea Cliff (51:34), Mauricio Duarte of Mineola (51:50), Shawn Fitzgerald of Cutchogue (53:15) and Ray Strong of Southold (53:23).

“In a short race like this, to have a margin like that is good,” the race director, Ruben Kline, said. “He’s a young athlete who’s just hitting it hard. He’s doing a good job. He’s really dedicated to it.”

Siebert was 10 years old when he tried his first triathlon. Then he took a break from the sport, preferring contact sports like hockey. But he has made a splash since dedicating himself to triathlon, a sport with no shortcuts, but plenty of training. “It’s a lot of early mornings, a lot of early nights, not staying out with my buddies,” said Siebert, who made his fourth appearance in the 13-year-old North Fork race.

It has been a busy summer for Siebert. During one four-week stretch, he raced in a triathlon every week.

“I came in [to this race] knowing that I was going to be up there, so I was really counting on a win,” he said. “It was nice that it came through.”

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Jenn Place of New York City became the Mighty North Fork Triathlon's women's champion for the second time.

Siebert was the first man out of the water, and he never looked back. He didn’t need to.

“I didn’t see him on the bike or the run,” Kyle Wailes said. “He was gone.”

John Nicolini of Massapequa Park (55:02), Gilles Dellaert of Brooklyn (55:10) and Michael Stewart of Wantagh (55:28) also earned places among the top 10.

Place, competing in her fourth Mighty North Fork Triathlon, clocked a time of 54:10, good enough for eighth overall as well as the women’s title. The 37-year-old New York City woman, whose parents live around the corner from the finish line, also won by a substantial margin. The second-place woman was Patti Thorp of Boston in 56:32. Jackie Bruscella of Bayville was third in 57:00.

That home-course advantage might have helped Place. “I sleep at [my parents’] house the night before” the race, she said. “It’s kind of become a tradition now. I feel like this is my home turf in a way.”

Place, a triathlon coach, competed in the North Fork event in her first triathlon in 2007 and came in eighth place. She won the 2008 race, but missed the 2009 event after breaking a wrist only a week before the race. Last year she was second in 56:16.

“I was really determined to win again,” Place said. “Two thousand and nine was crushing because I couldn’t do the race, and last year coming in second made me want it even more. I said: ‘I won in 2008. I can’t talk about that any more. It’s too long ago. I need to win a race again.’ ”

Place, the fourth woman to emerge from the water, took the lead on the second phase of the race, the bike ride.

Her closest competition was Thorp and Bruscella, the winner of the Great South Bay Triathlon a couple of weeks ago. Bruscella, coming off a thigh injury, turned in her best finish in the North Fork race. “I felt good, and that’s all that matters,” she said. “Just completing the race and doing good is an accomplishment in itself.”

The next seven female finishers after the leading trio were Kelly Pickard of Oyster Bay (57:25), Vicki Edwards of Mattituck (59:52), Liz Fernandez of Rockville Centre (1:00:17), Margaret Wailes of New York City (1:01:08), Suzanne Countryman of Mendham (1:01:12), Ivy Croteau of Southold (1:01:35) and Keri Shields of Riverhead (1:03.12).

The weather cooperated, with sunshine glistening off Peconic Bay’s calm, warm waters and the humidity not too bad.

“It was perfect,” Bruscella said. “You couldn’t ask for nicer conditions.”

Kline, the race director, said the event sold out in March, a record time. “Every year this event has been selling out faster and faster,” he said. “It’s a great event. It’s a beautiful time of the year on the North Fork.”

Kline said the field limit of 500 athletes has been reached for each of the past five years or so. Sunday’s race was completed by 436 triathletes.

The Mighty North Fork Triathlon is one of Siebert’s favorite triathlons, and that’s understandable, given his winning record. But he also appreciates the scenery.

“It’s quiet here,” he said. “You come off [Route] 25, it’s all about triathlon right here.”

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