Keri Pawielski wins M-22 Challenge for fourth consecutive year

Leelanau Vacation Rentals’ Ranae Ihme crosses the finish line of the M-22 Challenge, legging out a second-place finish in her age group.

Twice the size with 800 participants, the run-bike-paddle event again draws top athletes and a wheelchair division

From staff reports

She’s back again and holding on to her trophy. Keri Pawielski of St. Joseph, Mich., claimed first place in the women’s division of the M-22 Challenge for the fourth year in a row with a time of 1:23:43. Pawielski also took home the Queen of the Dune trophy for reaching the top of the Sleeping Bear Dune Climb first.

In the men’s division, Denny Paull of Cheboygan took first place with an impressive time of 1:14:10. Paull placed second last year and won the Challenge in 2010. For Paull, this year was “all about the bike.” He thanks Traverse City-based Brick Wheels for helping with his bike issues and says he “couldn’t have pulled it off with out them.”

Close behind Paull and nearly closing the gap on the water, Jeff Smoke of Chicago came in second with a time of 1:14:48. Smoke is also an Olympic competitor and last year’s M-22 Challenge titleholder. In third, newcomer Brian Stauffer of Holland, Mich., raced with a time of 1:26:56. Stauffer said he tried to get into the race last year but it filled up too fast. This year he made his way to the top.

This year, the M-22 Challenge added a new division for athletes in wheelchairs. Jerry Sarasin of Troy, Mich., took first with a time of 2:11:26, followed by Brian Sheridan of Clarkston and Kendall Judson of Birch Run. Sarsin said the race was hard but his favorite parts of the race were all of the hills.

After the main event, Carter Oosterhouse hosted an M-22 Kid’s Challenge for children 12 and under to benefit Carter’s Kids — a nonprofit that constructs playgrounds for children around the country.

The M-22 Challenge was sponsored by Oneupweb this year and donned the company’s motto, “Be Relentless.” The challenging race course that includes a dune climb, bike up Inspiration Point, and paddle in Little Glen Lake with head winds proved that all athletes, ranging from ages 14-71 and hailing from 15 different states, were truly relentless in finishing the M-22 Challenge.