Mike Smith of Santa Barbara overcame a slow start in the swimming segment to score his first victory as a professional in the fourth Huntington Beach triathlon Saturday.
Smith, 25, finished well back in the pack after the abbreviated swimming portion that started the triathlon. He turned in a strong performance in the 30-kilometer bicycling segment to move to third place going into the eight-kilometer run.
Smith, who was battling for the lead with Tom Gallagher of Long Beach and Eric Cech of Woodland Hills as the run began, pulled away after the first mile to seal the victory.
Smith finished the triathlon in 1 hour 14 minutes 12.1 seconds.
Gallagher, a former Huntington Beach lifeguard who was first after the swimming segment, was second overall with a time of 1:14:39.8. Cech was third in 1:15:15.0.
The swimming portion, scheduled for one kilometer, was shortened to about 400 meters and moved from a point near the Huntington Beach Pier to a lifeguard tower about half a mile north of the pier because of the strong currents and high ocean waves.
"The ocean currents were too strong out there," said Smith, who won the U.S. Triathlon Series championship last year as an amateur before he turned pro this year. "I was relieved that they shortened the swim because it's my weakest event, but the currents were so tough and I was battered by the surf."
In the women's competition, Janet Stamper of Tucson, Ariz., rallied from a slow start in the swimming portion to hold off Joan Alley-Smith of Redwood City and earn her first professional victory in three years.
Stamper was timed in 1:23:01.3. Alley-Smith was second in 1:23:20.6. Nancy Vallance of Santa Barbara, the pre-race favorite, was third in 1:24:10.1.
"I was a little bit worried about the currents and I went out too far at the start of the race," said Stamper, 29, a former Arizona State University swimmer. "I felt a lot stronger today in the bike, and after that, I felt I could sprint in the eight-kilometer run, which I did."
About 600 competitors were entered. Smith and Stamper each earned $1,500. Gallagher and Alley-Smith picked up $750 and Cech and Vallance each won $500.