Editor’s note: While the sports world is shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, West Hawaii Today will look back every Tuesday at memorable sports moments on the Big Island.
^If everything had gone according to plan this year, last weekend the 27th annual Kona Marathon would have been held in Waikoloa. Spectators might have seen 2019 winner Jason Brosseau win for a second time, or might have cheered on Bree Brown as she crossed the finish line to her fourth consecutive title.
Or, new runners could have claimed the top spot, creating new history or records for the marathon.
In 1996, Jeannie Wokasch was that runner.
The marathon was still new in 1996, with only two years under its belt. Wokasch, now known for crossing the Kona Marathon finish line with a signature cartwheel, won her first Kona Marathon in August of that year, finishing in three hours, four minutes, and 55 seconds. The time would be her personal best at the marathon, but Wokasch wasn’t done being first.
In the decade that followed, Wokasch would become Kona Marathon royalty, winning seven more times. She now holds the record for the most Kona Marathon wins at eight. Her other wins came in 1998, 2000, and then five consecutive wins in ‘02, ‘03, ‘04, ‘05 and ‘06.
The Oahu-based runner’s final Kona Marathon win came in 2006. In the 2005 race, Wokasch passed leader Angie Miyashiro about 10 miles in, and finished in 3:24:06. Her 2006 win (3:25:49) was accomplished under similar conditions.
“She was in second place halfway through the Marathon, but was able to pass leader Angie Miyashiro of Hilo near the halfway point, just like she did in 2005. Miyashiro (3:47:16) finished in fifth place,” West Hawaii Today’s Brendan Shriane wrote after Wokasch’s win in the 2006 race.
“I never look back — I just race against my feet,” Wokasch said.
Eddy Hellebuyck, a Belgian-born long distance runner, sits behind Wokasch for number of Kona Marathon wins with seven titles. He was the top men’s finisher from 1997-2003, and his time of 2:23:31 in 2001 is the record for the marathon.
It might be a while before Wokasch’s crown is claimed. Fans of the marathon will have to wait until next summer to see if anyone can start getting close.
“Nobody wins a marathon eight times,” Kona Marathon co-founder Jon Kunitake told West Hawaii Today’s J.R. De Groote in a June 25, 2017 article. “She’s amazing.”
“I’m always so happy to be here. It’s like family. I mean, I’ve spent half my life running here and it’s always a good time,” Wokasch said.