By MICAH LEWTER
Dan Gampon wore a huge smile when his name was called.
Keoni Smith could not stop shaking.
The 18-year-olds wore their Waverider Triathlon Club shirts Saturday at Bike Works, where Ironman officials announced the 24 Big Island lottery slot winners for the Oct. 12 Ironman world championship.
Gampon and Smith graduated from Kealakehe High School in May, and both completed Ironman 70.3 Hawaii on June 1 to qualify for the lottery.
The duo, part of the inaugural class of the Waverider Triathlon Club that began in August, will now race in October.
“It’s surreal,” Smith said. “It’s a cliche, but you grow up watching it and wanting to be in it, and now it’s real. You’re in it.”
“It’s amazing,” Gampon echoed.
Smith and Gampon joined the Waverider Triathlon Club, the brainchild of Kealakehe math teacher Kristin Drost. As lotto would have it, Drost also won a spot in the race, her name the final one called.
“Triathlons are my life,” Drost said. “They teach you hard work, determination, perseverance, and those things are all transferable traits. So I wanted the kids to have a chance to experience that, because if you have those things, you can do anything you set your mind to — in life, in school, in a job.”
The club started with 12 students in August, and five of them participated in last week’s event.
Smith and Gampon described their days growing up in Kailua-Kona, watching the finishers every year and volunteering at various points along the race. Smith’s father, Jeffrey, participated in the 1984 event.
With more than 50 Big Island residents seeking entry into the race, and only 24 spots available, there was a mixture of joy and disappointment among the crowd assembled at Bike Works. There was plenty of new blood among the list of lottery winners, the third year of the lottery’s existence.
None of the 24 selected were lottery entrants in 2012, meaning many athletes are first-timers.
One of the most excited winners was Kailua-Kona’s Michael Drutar, who had his own cheering section. He entered the lottery for the third straight year, finally finding success this year.
“It’s exciting to finally be in it,” he said.
Drutar countered his previous disappointments with a philosophic approach to the lottery system.
“It’s a lottery, it’s all luck,” he said. “There’s no right to be in the Ironman.
“But I’m thankful for the lottery. People like me wouldn’t get a chance to participate without the lottery.”
People like me?
“I work two jobs, I have a healthy relationship, and I like to stay active,” Drutar said. “Without the lottery, guys like me don’t get a chance. It’s the same dominant racers every year. I’m very thankful for the lottery.”
— Kona flavor: Of the 24 Big Island lottery winners, 22 are Kailua-Kona residents. Only Net Payne (Waimea) and Rachel Gillis (Waikoloa) won lottery spots from other parts of the island.
Big Island lottery winners
Laurie Beers, female, Kailua-Kona
Sam Brown, male, Kailua-Kona
Brian Collins, male, Kailua-Kona
Stephen Cosgrove, male, Kailua-Kona
Michael DeCarli, male, Kailua-Kona
Dane Decker, male, Kailua-Kona
Kristin Drost, female, Kailua-Kona
Michael Drutar, male, Kailua-Kona
Dan Gampon, male, Kailua-Kona
Rachel Gillis, female, Waikoloa
Norm Goody, male, Kailua-Kona
Jason Heady, male, Kailua-Kona
Jon Jokiel, male, Kailua-Kona
Matthew Mather, male, Kailua-Kona
John Miller, male, Kailua-Kona
Jim Moore, male, Kailua-Kona
Net Payne, male, Waimea
Kevin Prater, male, Kailua-Kona
Herman Rafol, male, Kailua-Kona
Rick Rubio, male, Kailua-Kona
Chitwin San Tun, malem Kailua-Kona
Kristina Sawaya, female, Kailua-Kona
Keoni Smith, male, Kailua-Kona
Dene Sturm, female, Kailua-Kona