Haley Chura and Brian Duffy outlasted a deep and talented field to record the overall victories Saturday at the USA Triathlon Olympic-Distance National Championship.
More than 2,000 athletes competed for 28 age group national titles on the 1.5-kilometer swim, 40-kilometer bike, 10-kilometer run course in today's Olympic-distance event, which is part of the two-day USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships, held at Waterfront Park for the second straight year.
Chura (Atlanta, Ga.), who was a collegiate swimmer at the University of Georgia, grabbed an early lead on the swim and exited the water with the day's fourth fastest swim split - regardless of gender - en route to the overall and women's 25-29 titles in 2 hours, 5 minutes, 40 seconds.
"Since the swim is my strength, my goal was to lead it from the start. I took the swim out pretty hard and then I've been working on my biking and running a lot the last couple of years. My running has come along pretty well this last year," said Chura, who held off some talented runners for the win.
Women's 35-39 winner Catherine Sterling (West Boylston, Mass.) was the overall runner-up for the second year in a row with a time of 2:06:18. Former Syracuse University runner and current member of the USA Triathlon Collegiate Recruitment Program Katie Hursey (Hampstead, Md.) ran a 35:24 10k to take third overall and win the women's 20-24 age group in 2:07:44.
On the men's side, Duffy (West Chester, Pa.) earned the overall men's victory that had eluded him for the past two years after placing fourth in 2010 and second in Burlington a year ago. Duffy used a steady effort to cross the line in 1:53:33 and claim the men's 20-24 and overall titles.
"I felt really good coming out of transition two. I knew I was going to have a strong run and that gave me a lot of confidence," Duffy said. "One thing I learned from last year was to take that initial hill a little more conservatively, and I did so and I was able to let it rip for the rest of the run."
Duffy held off men's 20-24 and overall runner-up Drew Scott (Boulder, Colo.), who finished in 1:54:09 and recorded the day's fastest bike split, and Dan Hedgecock (St. Louis Park, Minn.), who won the men's 25-29 age group and took third overall for the second straight year in 1:55:06. Scott, the son of six-time Ironman world champion Dave Scott, was fifth at USA Triathlon Collegiate Nationals earlier this year for the University of Colorado.
"I wanted to keep coming back until I was able to bring home the title," Duffy said. "Last year it was tough getting runner-up, but I'm thankful I was able to put it all together today and all the hard work paid off."
Masters wins went to Adrienne Leblanc (Scottsdale, Ariz.) in 2:11:32 and Doug Clark (Morristown, N.J.) in 1:57:28, while Grand Masters championships were claimed by local standout Donna Smyers (Adamant, Vt.) in 2:24:31 and Dale Mosher (Anderson, S.C.) in 2:20:53. "I was really happy to run down the couple of women who were in front of me," said Smyers, who won an age group championship for the second straight year in Burlington.
In all, over 30 athletes earned a national championship Saturday, but whether they claimed a title or not, the competitors were proud to have tested themselves against the nation's best amateur triathletes.
"Nobody should ever underestimate the strength of age-groupers, because they are just absolutely phenomenal. I think that's something we should all be proud of; there's a lot to be said for racing age group," said women's 35-39 standout Gail Kattouf (Greenville, S.C.).
In addition to the bragging rights of claiming an age group national title, Saturday's top finishers also earned coveted spots to represent the U.S. at the 2013 ITU World Championships in London. The top 18 finishers (rolling down to 25th place) in each Olympic-distance age group in Burlington qualified for a Team USA slot. Team USA is comprised of amateur athletes who represent the U.S. at each ITU World Championship event.
"World [Championships] are really where my heart is. You get to race for your country, and I'm kind of Mrs. Red, White and Blue," said women's 70-74 competitor Peggy McDowell-Cramer (Santa Monica, Calif.). "It's just kind of an experience, no matter how you do. I just want to qualify for my spot and be part of it."
--USA Triathlon Press Release--
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