LAKE TAHOE MARATHON: Locals at home in water |

LAKE TAHOE MARATHON: Locals at home in water

Steve Yingling, Tribune sports editor
Steve Yingling / Tahoe Daily TribuneRoger Cramer of South Lake Tahoe emerges from Lake Tahoe first in the Lake Tahoe Marathon one-mile swim on Friday at Lakeside Beach.

STATELINE – Participants tried wading in Lake Tahoe. Some even swam from side to side. Others opted to stay out the chilly mountain lake as long as they could.

But when Les Wright’s shotgun went off Friday morning at Lakeside Beach to trigger the start of the Lake Tahoe Marathon Swims, the wetsuited swimmers attacked the numbing water of Lake Tahoe like it was any other race.

Two of the top swimmers to emerge from the lake were South Lake Tahoe’s Roger Cramer and Walter Morris.

Cramer won one-mile swim in 21 minutes, 5 seconds – 13 seconds faster than runner-up Mike Peters.

“I just like beating the younger guys,” said Cramer, who was 20 years older than the runner-up in his event. “I haven’t been in a race for a long time, so it was fun.”

Walter Morris, a triathlete, bested a pair of professional triathletes, Yvonne Van Vlerken and Thomas Vonach, to win the 2.5-mile swim race in 44:34. Van Vlerken and Vonach tumbled across the finish line in identical 47:28 times, but Van Vlerken was just a tad faster.

“I just got into a nice, steady groove, and with the buoys, the course setup and lead kayak it was real easy to see where to go. I just had a wonderful, smooth swim,” Morris said.

The LTCC professor trained with the pro triathletes in the weeks leading up to the race.

“It was good training with them the last couple of weeks,” Morris said.

Michael Mollett of Newport Beach, Calif., claimed first place in the half-mile swim, dedicating his unexpected victory to his late father George.

“I’m feeling good about this and feeling good about my dad,” said Mollett, a Lake Tahoe summer resident. “I was just trying to get through it because I’m doing the bike around the lake (Saturday) and the run on Sunday.”

Mollett was nearly four minutes faster than runner-up Derek Hulme.

“I guess I underestimated myself,” Mollett said.

Other locals fared well in the one-mile swim. Craig Smith of Zephyr Cove finished fourth overall in 25:01, Julie Koster of South Lake Tahoe was sixth overall and the second woman at 25:07 and South Lake Tahoe’s Michael Sharp came in seventh at 25:17.

Lanier wins 5-mile kayak race

John Lanier of South Lake Tahoe powered his homemade wooden kayak to victory in the five-mile race on Friday.

Lanier, who works for Kayak Tahoe, was racing for the very first time. He navigated the buoy-laden course in 56 minutes.

“I haven’t done any racing since I was in high school,” Lanier said. “It couldn’t have been nicer … calm, no wind at all.”

Despite his sizable lead entering the finishing area at Lakeside Beach, Lanier thought he heard a fast-approaching competitor.

“It was funny. I thought there was somebody behind me. I heard something behind me. I turned around, and it was my own wake,” Lanier said.

Three-time event winner Frank Kovac of South Lake Tahoe finished in 1:00.12, and Jeff Miner of South Lake Tahoe came in 11th in 1:15:41.

“There is nothing like the lake in the morning. It’s nice and flat,” said Kovac, who routinely kayaks the lake in early morning hours to beat the power boats and water-skiers onto the water.

Bill Campbell of Long Beach captured the 10-mile kayak title, finishing in 1:17:30. John Buis took first in the five-mile paddleboard division at 1:10:10.

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