USA Triathlon National championships draws athletes of all ages
Matthew Smith | Staff Writer
West Chester, Ohio hosted the 2018 USA Triathlon National Championships at Voice of America (VOA) Park for the seventh year in a row on August 4th and 5th.
The event had over 1,000 participants and consisted of several events and a multitude of groups, including the Youth Elite Male Race, the Youth Elite Female Race (age 13-15), Junior Elite Male Race and Junior Elite Female Race (age 16-19), as well as the Youth Championship for boys and girls (anyone age 7-15).
The festivities opened on Saturday morning, when the Junior Elite females raced at 8 a.m. and the males raced at 9:45. The Junior Elite races were the longest of the weekend, where the athletes completed a 750 meter swim, 20 kilometers of biking, and a 5k run. A race this intense required rigorous training, according to participant Karson Peach from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
“Well, [how much training] depends on the time year, but on average it’s usually 25 hours, including 2-4 sessions a day,” Peach said. “The swimming is absolutely brutal; it’s terrible.”
The female race featured Paige Horner and Kira Stanley, 2018 favorites and top 3 finishers from 2017, along with many other participants. Once the race began it looked as if the two might finish first and second. However, as the race shifted into the final leg, the tide began to turn as Gillian Cridge overtook the lead and Stanley fell back. It looked like a potential nail-biter, but eventually Cridge ran away with the win, defeating Horner, the second-place finisher, by twenty-six seconds.
In the Male Junior Elite event, Fielding Fischer, 2017 third-place finisher, was the favorite of the event along with the 2017 youth elite winner, Drew Shellenberger, who would be moving up to the junior elite group. Right from the beginning Shellenberger, Fischer, and Luis Ortiz separated themselves from the rest of the group. The three men battled back and forth, changing lead multiple times, but once the running began, Shellenberger and Ortiz fell behind. Now with a comfortable lead, Fischer cruised to victory, defeating second-place Ortiz by twenty seconds, and third-place Shellenberger by sixty-one seconds.
The Youth Elite course was very similar to the Junior Elite course, but since it consisted of younger participants, the race was shortened to 375 meters of swimming, 10 kilometers on bike, and a 2.5k run. Even though the Youth Elite races were not as highly anticipated as the Junior Elite, expectations were still high for the favorites, such as Graham Tuohy from Lakewood, Colorado.
“I was hoping to go race and be near the top,” Tuohy said. “I’ve trained and I knew I would be able to do that.”
The male race was certainly for the taking, with the top 5 finishers from 2017 moving up to the junior elite group, but the favorite of the event was the 2017 sixth-place finisher, Eli Hoppenfeld. Hoppenfeld, however, fell behind from the start. Surprise leaders Jack Larkin and Lawson McLeod were in control off the bat. It looked as if one of them would reel in the championship, but on the final leg Andrew Flynn surged into the lead, with Graham Tuohy not far behind. Flynn’s excellent finish secured him the win, defeating second-place finisher Tuohy by seventeen seconds. McLeod held strong and still finished in third, just ahead of Larkin.
The closest race of the weekend was the Female Youth Elite Race with Faith Dasso, Camille Buchanan, and Hope Frost heavy favorites for the race. Swimming, however, deceived everyone, when none of the three were in the front pack going into biking. However, Dasso kicked it into gear and took over the lead. Frost and Buchanan were close behind, and going into the 5k, the three favorites were out ahead. As the final lap took place, Dasso and Frost were neck and neck, no one knowing who would snatch first. At the very end, Dasso’s last burst brought home the championship, defeating Frost by one second. Buchanan finished eleven seconds behind Dasso to capture third.
On Sunday, the Youth Championships took place and was divided into two events. The male race was for all boys age 7-15 to participate in (if they did not compete saturday), and a winner was awarded to each age category (7-8, 9-10, 11-12, 13-15). For boys, the winners were Joseph McKillop, Dylan Mirakian, Jack Diemar, and Reese Vannerson. The female race worked the same way, and the winners were Ellie Harlow, Andrea Rogerson, Clara James-Heer, and Josie Williams. The two races finished off a jam-packed weekend of competition.
The USA Triathlon National Championships crowned many winners, but to some, it wasn’t only about winning. To Karson Peach, there is more to racing than being the champion.
“Traveling and seeing different parts of the nation and other countries is really cool,” Peach said. “But it wouldn’t be the same without the people you do it with.”
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Photos by Sophia Johnson.