In only her second season of doing triathlons, a 35-year-old mother of two won perhaps the most prestigious local honor for the sport on Sunday.
Sandy Johnson O'Keefe of Summerville not only won the female open elite division of the 24th Charleston Sprint Triathlon Series but she set a new personal course record of one hour, two minutes and 22 seconds.
To put that in perspective, only 10 men had faster overall times on the course that featured a 600-yard swim, 12-mile bike and 5K run.
And if that's not enough, the branch manager of the Summerville Regions Bank took home the fastest time for women in what she considered the weakest of her three disciplines, the bike, with a split of 31:28.
"This year I got a new bike and really focused on improving," said O'Keefe, who plans to compete in the Kiawah Island Golf Resort Triathlon on Sept. 21 and the Beach 2 Battleship half iron distance race in Wilmington, N.C., on Oct. 25.
While she started running a decade ago after the birth of her first child, Kyla, O'Keefe started training with the Summerville Family YMCA Triathlon team and won her age group division in last year's sprint series. She decided to step up to open-elite this year and has been buoyed by her success.
After running the Boston Marathon next year, plans to turn her athletic focus to triathlon.
The male champion, 31-year-old Matthew Moldenhauer, finished fourth overall on Sunday with a time of 1:00:38, but point totals from two previous races this summer gave him the most in a year that marked the end of an era for the series.
Sunday's race was the last for sprint triathlon series founder Paul King and his family, which played critical roles in making the event happen over the last quarter century. The Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission, which has played a bigger role in the series for two years, will be organizing the event entirely in the future.
Moldenhauer, who works for the commission, had not set his sights on winning the series earlier in the season, but said he was honored to have won it during Paul and Kathleen King's last summer as race directors.
"I've done a number of other endurance races, but this series is by far my favorite. By design, the sprint series makes athletes of all abilities feel good about themselves and about their sport, and makes us all better sportsmen as a result," said Moldenhauer.
"We're a community of athletes here. You just don't get that at the big name races."
After Sunday's race, triathletes and volunteers joined commission staffers in a "send-off" party for the King family, which included a champagne toast, the reading of a proclamation from the City of Charleston and a full breakfast.
As part of the honors, Commission Executive Director Tom O'Rourke announced that the series male championship award will be named for Paul King and the female's award for Kathleen King.
For more results, go to https://www.ccprc.com/index.aspx?NID=1507
Matthew Moldenhauer, 31, of Charleston, receives the first-ever Paul King Award for being the Charleston Sprint Triathlon Series Champion, as Sunday's third place finisher Michael Kovac (right), 35, of Myrtle Beach, and series founder Paul King (background) look on. David Quick/Staff×
Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission Executive Director Tom O'Rourke makes a toast for Paul and Kathleen King during a party celebrating their 24 years of creating and building the Charleston Sprint Triathlon Series. David Quick/Staff×
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