EMPIRE — Make that three wins in the last four years for Jeff Smoke.
Smoke was the first to cross the finish line at Saturday’s M-22 Challenge, repeating as the event’s winner in a time of 1:13:23.
It was a convincing win for the Granger, Ind. resident, who was nearly two minutes ahead of Denny Paull of Cheboygan (1:15:12). The two also finished 1-2 in last year’s run, bike, kayak race, with Paull’s 2012 victory the only thing separating Smoke — a 2004 U.S. Olympic kayaker — from a run of four straight victories in the six-year-old Challenge. Sean Kickbush of Traverse City was third among male competitors, crossing the finish line in a time of 1:17:31, and Patrick Tedham of Grand Rapids was close behind in fourth with a time of 1:18:12.
The top two finishers among the women were considerably closer as Traverse City’s Jamie Endicott won by a mere 18 seconds over Amy Carlson of Duluth, Minn. Endicott recorded a time of 1:34:06, while Carlson finished in 1:34:24. Traverse City’s Katie Kearney came in third in 1:37:20 and Cedar’s Kate Hogan was fourth in 1:38:12.
A total of 782 competitors completed the three-stage course this year.