KAILUA-KONA — It’s not often that a quicker sprint will be the difference in an open water swim.
At the 1.2-mile King’s Swim at Kailua Bay on Saturday, Nathaniel Goodale emerged from the water slightly behind Kylie Burgess, but burst ahead as he reached the sands of Kamakahonu Beach to take home first overall honors at the 20th running of the event.
Goodale came in with a time of 24 minutes and 53 seconds, edging Burgess — a Minnesota resident who won the Hapuna Roughwater Swim in June — by just three seconds. Daniel Manzo rounded out the overall finisher podium with a time of 24:55.
Along with the top trio, three other swimmers reached the sand around the same time. Peter Parisi of San Francisco finished fourth overall (24:57) and college-bound Kona Aquatics and Kealakehe High School teammates Cara Jernigan (24:59) and Leahi Camacho (25:01) rounded out the group.
Jernigan and Camacho will both swim at Division I colleges on scholarship, Jernigan at the University of Idaho, and Camacho at Wagner College in Staten Island, N.Y.
The race was a breakthrough for Goodale, who has been a fixture at the front of the pack for years, but had yet to take home the first overall title.
“I saw (Kylie) get out of the water in front of me and knew I had one chance. I just gave it all I had once I hit the sand,” said Goodale. “Honestly, I didn’t expect much going in. I took almost three months off after my college season and have been working to get back in shape since then.”
During the school year, Goodale swims for Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
King’s Swim race director Steve Borowski, who founded the race two decades ago with Bill Gonzales, coached Goodale with his Kona Aquatics club, and he was thrilled to see his former pupils success.
“Nathaniel has been swimming with me since he was six. Now, he is 20 and going into his third year of college, but he is coming back and doing events like this,” said Borowski. “To me, that is the most important thing. For him to swim all these years and keep coming back is really special, and a lot of these swimmers do end up doing that.”
With just three of the top 20 finishers being from outside the 24-and-under age range, youth had a strong presence at the event. However, the only record broken Saturday came in the 70-plus category, with Bob Smith of Kailua-Kona breaking Mo Mathews 15-year-old division record of 33:56 by one second. Smith would have likely added a few more seconds of cushion to his new record, but has been hobbled on land after a surgery and needed the assistance of crutches to wrap up his record day.
Borowski said the event usually averages around 230 participants, but had 270 record finishing times this year. The swim also saw participants from nearly a dozen states and as far as Norway. Borowski accounted it to having the event on the Fourth of July weekend.
The event’s venue holds a special place in Borowski’s heart. The Hawaii Waterman Hall of Famer said Kamakahonu Beach, where King Kamehameha spent much time at, adds an powerful aura to the race.
“We call this the King’s swim in honor of Kamehameha. This is a very special area,” said Borowski. “The fortunate thing is, Kailua Bay is typical very clear and calm. There is not a better place in the world to do a swim like this.”