Competitors make their way back to land Saturday during the Aukeman Triathlon. (Konrad Frank | For the Juneau Empire)

Competitors make their way back to land Saturday during the Aukeman Triathlon. (Konrad Frank | For the Juneau Empire)

The usual suspects take Aukeman

It was a case of the usual suspects at this year’s Aukeman sprint triathlon.

For the second year in a row, Jordan Callahan took first for women with a time of 1 hour, 13 minutes and 37 seconds; 2015 champion John Bursell took the men’s crown at 1:04:30.

Callahan beat out Jamie Bursell (1:20:08) and April Rezendez (1:18:06) for the title. She credits her family’s newest addition with the win.

“Well, we got a dog, so we’ve been doing a lot of running,” Callahan said.

Callahan led the pack on the entire course, which starts with a 750-meter swim in Auke Lake, and continues on a 19-kilometer cycle to the Mendenhall Glacier and back. Racers finish with a 5K out-and-back run on Auke Lake Trail, the finish line beckoning from the University of Alaska Southeast.

Rezendes has finished second or third several times in the Aukeman but hasn’t yet taken the top spot. She jokes that people tell her every year that it’s her moment, but she’s yet to get over the hump. Callahan is formidable competition.

“I know I can’t catch Jordan,” she said with a laugh.

John Bursell led nearly the entire way but had to overtake a newcomer Adam Moser out of the swimming leg. Bursell is known as a strong cyclist.

“Each of the legs went well. The transitions went well and everything went as planned. I didn’t feel quite as fast as I wanted on the bike,” Bursell said.

Aaron Morrison finished third at 1:11:22. Justin Dorn finished second at 1:07:56.

Knowing Bursell’s strength in the saddle, Dorn made a push to overtake him on the cycle to the glacier.

“I knew John was going to be really fast on the bike. He’s a really good biker, so I was thinking I would just spend it all on the bike and see if I had anything left for the run,” Dorn said.

The former Gatorade state high school soccer player of the year said his strength is the run. Though he went “as hard as he could as long as he could” he “just didn’t have it” to catch the seemingly ageless Bursell in the end.

A full list of standings can be found with this story at

‘I just wanted to move’

Bursell and Callahan’s names are first on the record sheets, but last place finisher Jenny Smith proved a winner as well.

A 54-year-old mechanical engineer with the Coast Guard, Smith finished her first Aukeman as a very different person than she was two years ago.

The mother of four has lost 76 pounds since October 2015. It was then, when visiting with an old college friend who Smith hadn’t seen in 25 years, that something changed inside her.

She said the friend, who she used to play softball and field hockey with, was talking with her “just like old times, like we were athletes out on the field.”

“She had stayed super fit. Did triathlons, did century rides, did marathons, all this stuff. And we were talking, and at that time I was well over 250 pounds — I had had four kids or whatever — way out of shape, but the way she was talking to me it was just like old times, like we were kids, just like when we were athletes on the field. Something just clicked inside, like ‘That’s who you are. That’s who you really are,” Smith said.

So about a month later, she started training for a bike race her friend would be participating in in less than a year. She gave herself 42 weeks to ride 42 miles and lose 42 pounds.

“I just started in the gym, little by little. Half hour on the bike ratcheting up the difficulty until I could go pretty hard,” Smith said.

She ended up losing 46 pounds on the way to that race. That was last September. Smith wasn’t done setting goals and set her sights on the Aukeman.

She started with a phone app for run training called Couch to 5K and began training at the pool, breaking the challenge down into discrete mini-goals. She focused on distance, not time. She got up to 1.5 miles on the swim and did the Only Fools Run at Midnight run.

“I knew I could do all the distances, it’s just a matter of putting it all together and I looked up the old times for everybody and I’m like, ‘Oh god, you know, I don’t even know if I can make the slowest on that,’” Smith said. “But I kind of said, ‘OK, I can swim it in less than a half hour, I can ride it in less than an hour, I can run it in maybe less than an hour, so let’s shoot for two and a half hours.”

She made that goal, crossing the finish line to cheers and high fives at 2:22:01. How did she feel when she got there? “Oh, like a champion,” she said.

“I just wanted to make it, you know? So many people get in a rut and they just think they just can’t. Or they look at somebody who’s pretty athletic and they think, you know, ‘I could never be that.’ But I didn’t have to be that athletic, I just wanted to move.”



• Contact Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 or



A competitor makes her way to the Auke Lake Trail Saturday during the last leg of the Aukeman Triathlon. (Konrad Frank | For the Juneau Empire)

A competitor makes her way to the Auke Lake Trail Saturday during the last leg of the Aukeman Triathlon. (Konrad Frank | For the Juneau Empire)

Juneau competitors Jordan Callahan and Mark Neidhold celebrate as they both finish the Aukeman Triathlon on Saturday. (Konrad Frank | For the Juneau Empire)

Juneau competitors Jordan Callahan and Mark Neidhold celebrate as they both finish the Aukeman Triathlon on Saturday. (Konrad Frank | For the Juneau Empire)

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