Triathlete of the Year 2000 - Malissa Auker

Presented by Barbara McNeal

When I was asked to give this award, I thought “wow” this is going to be a piece of cake. Then when I started to try to write down what I wanted to say, I realized how hard it would be. So I went to the Fleet Foot to re-read the definition for Triathlete of the Year. It begins: “Given to an active Gulf Winds triathlete who has achieved a high level of performance for the past year in particular.”

Well in June of this year she had earlier qualified for, then competed in, the Worlds Long Distance Championship in Nice France finishing with a time of 9:46:31. In October, after qualifying in an Ironman last year, she competed in this year’s Hawaiian Ironman, which supposedly were the worst Ironman conditions in the history of the race finishing with a time of 12:27:03. People were literally being blown off their bikes, due to the forceful winds. Out of three time of competing in Hawaii, this was her personal best. Our triathlete of the year thrives on adversity. Then only 14 days later she had a stunning performance at Ironman Florida with a time of 11:58:33. For those of you who may not know, an Ironman distance consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2 mile run. Ask Tony and Ann Guillen first time Ironman finishers this year – completing ONE Ironman is a lifetime accomplishment.

Although this was a very impressive year, not telling you of her past accomplishments would be unfair. Have you ever watched the Hawaiian Ironman on T.V.? Sat back and thought “Maybe I could even do that once.” In the past nine years she has competed in twelve Ironman competitions. Five were at the Great Floridian where she either won a top 10 overall award or an age group award. She did Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, deemed the hardest Ironman course to do, and took third in her age group. She has competed in three Hawaiian Ironman copetitions, as I previously mentioned, two Ironman Floridas, and one Canadian Ironman. In 1995 she did three Ironman distances within an eight-week period. And of course in between all of these she raced sprint Olympic international half Ironman distances, was a mother of two and worked as a neo intensive care nurse at TMH. When people tell me they don’t have time to exercise, I tell them the story of our Triathlete of the Year.

The rest of the definition is: “whose love of triathlon is demonstrated not only in competition but also in service and inspiration.” As far as service, I am sure there is not one triathlete here who did not consult Malissa before competing in their first Ironman race. They asked her advice every step of the way, then race day asked for any last minute hints on how to get through the day…alive.

Inspiration, now this was the part that was easy. When I had heard she had completed her first Ironman back in 1991 I called her right away. We didn’t know each other yet, but from that day forward you rarely see one of us without the other. It was she who inspired, trained and convinced me to do my first Ironman, and with her encouragement I have successfully completed six. When I crossed that finish line for the first time, my life was changed forever. That is one debt, I will never be able to repay.

So with great honor and pride, I would like to introduce to you my best friend, and our triathlete of the year Malissa Auker.