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News | June 30, 2024

Sailor wins seventh Army Forces Triathlon, as Navy dominates the field

By Joe Lacdan, Armed Forces Sports U.S. Armed Forces Sports

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Kyle Hooker raised his arms as he won his seventh Armed Forces Triathlon championship on an overcast day at Point Mugu Beach Saturday. 

Moments after he embraced his wife and son, he sprinted back to the finish line to congratulate teammate, Petty Officer 2nd class Kyle Warrick on his second place finish.

Hooker then shouted encouragement to a female Sailor on her last leg of the triathlon displaying the camaraderie that helped propel Navy to the top of the field. Hooker led a dominant Navy effort as Sailors claimed the top two spots in the men’s division and first in the women’s division and first in the men’s masters.

“I felt really strong on the swim,” Hooker said. “The water was chilly jumping in. On the bike, going upwind I was slogging it, but going downwind, I was cruising real smooth. The run was effortless but fast. It was a fantastic race.”

The Navy took first place in both the men’s and women’s divisions, followed by the Air Force taking silver.  Army and Marine Corps finished third and fourth, respectively in both the men and women divisions. 

Hooker said he made the most strides in the 1,500 meter swim. Since competing on the Naval Academy’s club triathlon team, the Burke, Virginia native has developed into one of the top Triathletes in the U.S. Armed Forces. The Sailor has competed in nearly 100 triathlons over 17 years. 

Hooker bested his 2023 time by almost three seconds to finish 1:49:28. He credited the milestone to spending more time working on his speed in the 10K run.

Navy Ensign Hannah Walz, only a year removed from her Naval Academy graduation, took top honors for the women finishing at 2:09:13.

The student naval aviator, who competed on the Naval Academy’s triathlon team, said running with Army Capt. Danielle Nuszkowski during the bike race and final run keyed her victory. After Walz stumbled on the first transition from the swim to bikes, the Soldier and Sailor began pacing each other. 

“We were working together the whole time, me and Danielle,” Walz said. “Honestly that camaraderie and companionship pushed me to the finish supporting each other.”

However Nuszkowski, who finished second at the 2023 Armed Forces Triathlon, had to be treated for exhaustion after finishing in fourth place. 

Walz competed on her high school’s volleyball and cross country teams, but didn’t run at a high level. 

“My teammates on Navy Tri taught me to swim properly and just built me into a swimmer,” Walz said.

“They brought me from nothing to something. Just with their pure leadership, it’s an incredible culture.”

Warrick got off to a hot start, finishing second in the 1,500 meter swim. Warrick said that he paced himself with teammate Lt. Cmdr. Ian King and Air Force 2nd Lt. Samuel Busa [3rd place, Elite] to eventually put himself in second place behind eventual winner Hooker.

“We pulled away in the last half of the bike,” Warrick said. “I just felt really good going into the run, kept it steady. I knew [Hooker] was too far ahead to catch him.”

Warrick, who has competed on the All-Navy Cross Country team, said he saw the most improvement in his swimming. In his fourth All-Armed Forces Marathon, he achieved a personal-best time of 1:53:54. 

“He was really strong on the run,” Hooker said. “He’s had some up and down years but today was a really good race for him.”

Cmdr. Nick Collier said a stronger swim time helped propel him to the top finish in the men’s master’s division at 1:58:53.  

Collier, 43, who has more than 25 triathlons under his belt, finished third in the master’s division for men in 2023. 

“[Finishing first] was my main goal for this year,” said Collier, a pilot who briefly swam for the Naval Academy before switching to club water polo.” 

Collier said watching the triathlon at the 2008 Olympics inspired him to begin training for triathlons. Already a strong runner and swimmer, Collier had to learn to bike competitively before he began competing in ironman triathlons.

Collier turned his weakness into his strength by spending countless hours on his bicycle turbo trainer in his basement.

Air Force Maj. Esther Willett finished first in the female master’s division crossing the finish line with a time of 2:19:39. 

Willett, stationed at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, said that finding the right competitors to draft during the swim and bike race helped her conserve energy for the 10K run. Competitors can legally draft each other by running behind another runner of the same sex on the same lap to reduce wind resistance and air pressure. 

“I was able to put a little extra energy in this year than I was to last year,” Willett said. 

Marine Corps Col. Christine Houser, who won the female master’s division last year, nearly equaled her 2023 time, by clocking 2:24:49 Saturday. Houser said her strength on the 40K bike ride helped her blaze past most of the masters competition. 

“It was a great race,” Houser said. “It was cool weather. I was lucky on the bike; I got out in transition fast and just gunned it and did my technique and we formed a pack. It was pretty tough by mile five.”