Laura Matthews, the 2015 women’s runner up, who won the overall female title last year, said by email that she will not be running the Mightymite this year which leaves the female division of the race literally up for grabs
Mathews has moved into the professional racing ranks and will be racing Saturday in the New York City Triathlon.
“I wish I knew,” said Start2Finish event coordinator Daniel Shaffer when asked about a favorite in the women’s division Saturday. “The participant list doesn't lend itself to any winners that I can tell. I'm guessing the eventual winner will be somewhere near the last day of registration.“
In winning the Mightymite last year, Mathews turned in the best time for a female winner since Kaiser-Rehnelt set the current course record 1:03.26 in 2014. Mathews winning time last year came within .33 seconds of tying Kaiser-Rehnelt’s course mark.
“I knew I was close,” Mathews said.
Kaiser-Rehnelt owns seven Mightymite titles, winning the race in 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2009, 2006 and 2005.
When Mathews ran and won the overall female Mightymite title last July, she was still a year away from graduating from Rice with a degree in ecology. She has since earned that degree and is looking forward to the professional circuit.
She added the Mightymite victory to her fast expanding race resume after winning the 34th Memphis in May triathlon.
“I won it but because I had already turned pro, I was not eligible for any of the awards,” Mathews added.
The 23-year-old former St. Mary's swimming star was consistent across the board in the water, on the bike and her two feet, to claim her first Memphis in May Olympic-length victory, in a time of 2 hours, 12 minutes, 22 seconds.
She did the same for her first Mightymite title, producing consistency in all three phases of the three-stage triathlon.
That consistency helped bring her within .33 tenths of a second of tying the Mightymite female course record.
Mathew’s success should not be considered just a flash in the pan. She is being trained under the watchful guidance of six-time Mightymite male champion Jeff Fejfar, who will be looking for his seventh straight victory on Saturday.
“I have been concentrating my training efforts toward the New York City triathlon on Saturday,” Mathews said. “I have been discussing the possibility of turning pro for some time with my coach and we just decided it was time to make the jump. I feel like I have dome very well in the triathlons and I really hope to continue that as a pro.”
Collierville’s Lesley Brainard finished second in the Memphis in May, while six-time champion Kristen Sass ran third.