Cannon airman part of winning triathlon team

By Senior Airman Steve Bauer

30th Space Wing Public Affairs

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — The Air Force triathlon team recently excelled in all athletic categories at the 2010 Armed Forces Triathlon Championship June 5 at Naval Base Ventura County Point Mugu, Calif.

The Air Force team took first place in every category, including the fastest male (Capt. James Bales at 1 hour, 46 minutes, 32 seconds), fastest female (1st Lt. Kathy Rakel at 2:00:04) and overall fastest team for both male and female categories.

The competition was an Olympic-distance triathlon consisting of a 1.5-kilometer swim, 40-kilometer bike ride and a 10-kilometer run. The triathlon was open to service-selected teams representing the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force.

The Air Force female’s team has come in at first place at this venue for the past three years. This was the first time the Air Force men’s team has won this competition since 2004.

“This was a more experienced team with a higher caliber of athletes than prior years,” said Maj. Jonathan Mason, a 30th Weather Squadron assistant director of operations.

Two Vandenberg Air Force Base Airmen, Major Mason and 1st Lt. Scott Tonder, a 392nd Training Squadron space operations instructor, contributed to the success of the Air Force Triathlon Team. The two officers trained together in preparation for the triathlon.

“It really helped training with Lieutenant Tonder, who ended up placing second for the team and 11th overall,” Mason said. “His training and racing has really improved over the last 12 months, and it is contagious when you train with somebody that is better than you.”

For Vandenberg AFB’s elite triathletes, being selected to participate on the Air Force team in the Armed Forces Triathlon Championship has become an annual occurrence. Tonder competed in the triathlon in 2007 through 2009, and Mason competed alongside him in 2008 and 2009.

“One of the highlights of my life and Air Force career was last Saturday at (the) Armed Forces Triathlon Championship,” Mason said. “It was the first time the men’s and women’s team swept the competition along with both individual champions coming from one service. I was honored to be part of it and for it to happen to the nicest and most professional group of people I know.”

From a spectator’s perspective, the Air Force team’s pregame strategy of sticking together during the bicycling event is what contributed to the success of the team, said Maj. John Roberts, a 30th Space Wing director of operations.

“From what I saw, the reason why the Air Force men’s team did so well was because they worked better as a team on the bicycle than the other services did,” Roberts said. “The place you come in is the amount of points your team accrues. It’s like golf, the lower the points the better you place. The Air Force had the tightest, most consistent groups for both the male and female teams therefore the best scores.”