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Victor Plata was emotional after winning in San Francisco on November 8.
Victor Plata was emotional after winning in San Francisco on November 8.
photo: USA Triathlon / Jason Mucher

Victor-y! Plata, Groff Win in San Francisco to Close 2008 Elite Series


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SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. - Victor Plata and Sarah Groff are both wishing the 2008 racing season was just starting rather than coming to a close. Both athletes were in prime form to earn wins at the San Francisco Triathlon at Treasure Island on Saturday. The race - an ITU Pan American Cup - was also the final race in the USA Triathlon Haul to the Great Wall Elite Series.

The 35-year-old Plata - who won at the Pacific Grove Triathlon just a few weeks ago - used a strong run to pull away from Olympian Matt Reed and win in 1:54:29. Joe Umphenour was second in 1:54:47, with Brian Fleischmann in third in 1:55:03. Mexican Francisco Serrano was fourth in 1:55:23. Reed finished fifth in 1:55:23.

"I think this is the biggest win in my career," said an emotional Plata, who pumped both arms in the air after breaking through the finish tape. "I'm so blessed today, so lucky. I've had a pretty tough go of it. It was a great way to finish the season. I came in dead last at the Olympic Trials. It was rough. I took a couple months off then really resurrected my season at Pacific Grove."

For Groff, it was the first win of her season, but it followed a second place finish in the ITU Huatulco World Cup two weeks ago and last week's second place result in Bermuda. She got a great challenge from Olympian Julie Ertel, but had the day's strongest run (37:41) to win by almost a minute in 2:05:49. Ertel was second in 2:06:44, followed by Canadian Rachel McBride in 2:07:16. Jillian Petersen took fourth in 2:07:27, with Alexis Smith finishing fifth in 2:07:58.

"I came into this race wanting to gain a little bit of confidence to carry me into next year," said Groff. "I had a good run, and it carried me to the win."

A $40,000 prize purse that went 10-deep for both the men and women was awarded after the races. Swimwear and sports apparel giant Speedo also supplied another $5,000 in bonuses that was split among the top three U.S. men and women in the race.

Coming into the race, the Haul to the Great Wall Elite Series titles had already been secured by Reed and Ertel, but today's final event solidified the second and third positions, where key prize money and bonuses were on the line. Fleischmann and Umphenour took second and third, respectively, for the men, while Groff was able to slip past Sarah Haskins - who chose not to race in San Francisco - to finish second for the women.

As the series winners, Reed and Ertel each took home $5,000, and another $5,000 from Speedo for being the top Americans in the series.

Another $10,000 was split among the second and third place male and female finishers in the series. And a $2,500 bonus was awarded to both Fleischmann and Groff as the second-place U.S. finishers in the series.

See the complete race results.

See more detailed standings and information about the 2008 series.

Past Haul to the Great Wall Series Champions
2007: Hunter Kemper and Julie Ertel
2006: Jarrod Shoemaker and Sarah Haskins
2005: Hunter Kemper and Julie Swail (Ertel)