LEHMAN TWP. — While the 35th annual Wilkes-Barre Triathlon may not have been the most meaningful to Sean Robbins, it turned out to be one of his most memorable.
Simply because he never seems to allow any type of pain to slow him down.
Robbins returned to his hometown course made more difficult by hip surgery and conquered the field Sunday while becoming a three-time champion of the Wilkes-Barre Triathlon by capturing the event’s Olympic division in 2 hours, 20 minutes in what could be his final race at that distance.
“I really wanted to come out and do this race,” Robbins, from Dallas, said. “I kind of had this race in the back of my head all summer. When I started doing triathlons, it’s the first race I ever did, and I did them because of this one.
“It’s a special race.”
Erin Hannigan from Pittston captured the women’s division with a time of 2:37:09 to place ninth overall and best women’s Olympic distance runner-up Kelly Adamshick of Dallas, who ended with a time of 2:43:45.
Tim Straub of Ardmore won the overall Sprint distance title in 1:33:28, besting former Hazleton Area wrestler Tim Samec of Drums, who wound up with a time of 1:35:01 and captured the 20-24 men’s division title. Robert Gould, also of Drums, placed third in that category, while Ambler’s Laurie Hug won the women’s Sprint title.
The team of We Be 3 made up of Bobby Jacobs, Greg Klusewi and former Holy Redeemer track standout Aaron Hoda won the Olympic relay title, besting a Velocity team of Tom Scott, Brian Hazens and Russ Susko. Former Holy Redeemer standout swimmer Connor Boyle paced the third-place team of ConPatCha, also composed of Pat Good and Chase Susko.
Charles Bender from Philadelphia bested Wyoming’s Kevin Augustine and third-place finisher Wayne Devine of Harveys Lake in the Aquabike division.
That Robbins bested the Olympic distance field was a mild surprise, only because of his relatively recent operation to repair damage in his left hip.
After winning the Wilkes-Barre Triathlon in 2011 and 2013, Robbins underwent hip arthroscopy in 2014 and skipped the triathlon circuit the past two years while recovering.
“It’s a congenital condition,” said Robbins, 47, who starred on the local road racing circuit before undergoing the surgery. “I also have the condition in the right hip, but it’s not as bad as in the left hip. The running and training on the hip probably brought it to the surface a little earlier. I had some cartilage tear, they shaved part of the bone off.”
Two years after the surgery, he wasn’t sure how it’d react.
Robbins tested it out last month during the Strive Olympic Triathlon at Beech Mountain Lakes in Drums, where he finished second.
“But this is a tough run course,” Robbins said. “I had the surgery in 2014 and can feel it. It was difficult.”
The pain was similar to the mental anguish Robbins felt in 2011, when his father — a big supporter of the Wilkes-Barre Triathlon — passed away before that year”s race.
“The year that stands out for me is 2011,” Robbins said. “My dad passed, I won it, so winning that one was really special. But coming back after surgery and winning the 35th is pretty darn special, too.”
He may not do it again.
“Depending on what happens with this hip,” Robbins said. “I just didn’t know how the hip was going to hold up. It held up, but I can feel it. I’ve got some time off (from work) coming.
“I’ve got to give this distance some thought.”
Once Robbins got going, though, his competition Sunday turned out to be an afterthought.
He was just a tick behind second-place finisher Payne Pachuda of West Chester coming out of the swim, but Robbins kicked open a big lead on the bike while paving a path to victory.
“I didn’t look back,” Robbins said. “I just kept going forward. In the run, I tried to stay as steady as possible.”
It worked, as Pachuda finished in 2:25:48 and nearly six seconds behind Robbins.
“I tried to get a little time in on the bike,” Robbins said. “Because I didn’t know what the guy (Pachuda) was going t0 do. I tried to open a little bit of a gap.”
NOTE: Times Leader assistant news editor Joe Soprano finished his first Olympic distance Wilkes-Barre Triathlon in 4:02.54.
Wilkes-Barre Triathlon Results
2`Payne Pachuda`West Chester`17`2:25:48
4`Andrew Morgan`Clarks Summit`44`2:33:37
10`Alex Saba`Mountain Top`25`2:38:02
3`Kristin Buchholz`Mountain Top`33`2:50:12
5`Allison Schafer`Spring City`24`2:51:33
10`Danae Labar`West Chester`32`3:10:36
2`Tim Samec` Drums`23`1:35:01
5`Jonathan Bilbow`Mountain Top`39`1:50:51
8`Megan Crawford`Harveys Lake`27`2:07:11
3`Wayne Devine`Harveys Lake`2:03:44
1. We Be 3 (Bobby Jacobs, Greg Klusewi, Aaron Hoda) 2:14:10
2. Velocity (Tom Scott, Brian Hazens, Russ Susko) 2:14:37
3. ConPatCha (Connor Boyle, Pat Good, Chase Susko) 2:31:01
Reach Paul Sokoloski at 570-991-6392 or on Twitter @TLPaulSokoloski