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photo: Chris Didario/USA Triathlon

Young Triathletes Shine at Nationals


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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A day after the start of the Olympic Games in Beijing, a new crop of potential Olympians competed in the USA Triathlon Youth and Junior National Championships on Saturday at Memorial Park.

More than 350 athletes competed in the event’s eight races. The location of the national championship – the hometown of the U.S. Olympic Committee, an Olympic Training Center and residence of some of the country’s medal hopefuls in triathlon – served as inspiration for youths and juniors competing in the event.

USA Triathlon Athlete Development Coordinator Steve Kelley lauded the athletes and the level of competition in the youth and junior elite races.

“One of the things this race shows us is the emergence of new talent at the top level,” Kelley said. “Some of the top athletes were youth elites last year, and it’s impressive to see they’ve stepped up and adapted to the increased distance and intensity of the junior elite division.”

Ben Kanute (Geneva, Ill.) won the junior elite men’s race after previous success in the youth elite division. The 16-year-old held off duathlon specialist Ben Steavenson on the run to win the national title with a time of 57 minutes, 5 seconds. Steavenson closed a significant gap off the bike to finish less than a minute behind Kanute with a time of 57:56.

“On the run I kept looking back to make sure I still had my lead, but I knew I had the race as long as I maintained my pace,” Kanute said of the 5k run finish.

A common trend for all the top youth and junior elite athletes, including 18-year-old Kate Ross – the winner of the junior elite women’s race – was the desire to qualify for the Olympics in the future. Ross (Doylestown, Pa.) has been training with runner-up Lauren Goldstein-Kral (Shaker Heights, Ohio) at the U.S. Olympic Training Center as part of a junior development program. Ross won with a time of 1:01:43 while Goldstein-Kral, 19, posted a time of 1:02:51.

In the youth elite races, two 15-year-old Illinois runners from the Multisport Madness Triathlon Team dominated. Jenn Howland (Elburn, Ill.) finished in 32:26 while Lukas Verzbicas (New Lenox, Ill.) won with a time of 29:01.

Earlier in the day, youth age group competitors raced in the boys and girls 7-8, 9-10, 11-12 and 13-15 divisions.

Age Group Winners
Boys 7-8 — Juan Gonzalez, 8, Chicago, Ill., 18:55.7
Girls 7-8 — Kira Stanley, 8, Acworth, Ga., 22:11.4
Boys 9-10 — Nathan Ploeger, 10, Austin, Texas, 17:29.0
Girls 9-10 —  Alexandra Lorenz, 10, Dundee, Ill., 19:11.3
Boys 11-12 —  Neilson Powless, 12, Roseville, Calif., 29:31.8
Girls 11-12 —  Drew Sanclemente, 12, Middletown, Del., 29:44.3
Boys 13-15 —  Ben Barthel, 15, Santa Barbara, Calif., 28:12.7
Girls 13-15 —  Taylor Fogg, 13, Colorado Springs, Colo., 29:55.7

Youth Elite Women
1. Jenn Howland, 15, Elburn, Ill., 32:26.2
2. Breanna Hemming, 15, Kiowa, Colo., 32:52.9
3. Johanna Gartman,15, Chattanooga, Tenn., 33:12.4

Youth Elite Men
1. Lukas Verzbicas, 15, New Lenox, Ill., 29:01.4
2. Joshua Kanute, 14, Geneva, Ill., 30:20.8    
3. Reeven Nathan, 15, Highland Park, Ill., 30:30.4

Junior Elite Women
1. Kathryn Ross, 18, Doylestown, Pa., 1:01:43.6
2. Lauren Goldstein-Kral, 19, Shaker Heights, Ohio, 1:02:51.7
3. Marissa Ferrante, 17, Aptos, Calif., 1:03:46.1

Junior Elite Men
1. Benjamin Kanute, 16, Geneva, Ill., 57:05.6
2. Benjamin Steavenson, 18, Ann Arbor, Mich., 57:56.1
3 Jack St. Marie, 16, Westlake, Ohio, 58:34.3

Full Elite Results
Full Age Group Results