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Tony Smoragiewicz (right) will look for a return to the podium at this weekend's ITU Junior World Championships.

Groff, Jorgensen Eye Top Finishes in ITU World Triathlon Series Grand Final

Under-23, Junior events also part of the weekend race schedule

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AUCKLAND, New Zealand — USA Triathlon National Team members Sarah Groff and Gwen Jorgensen aim to end their Olympic year on a high note Saturday in the Grand Final of the eight-race ITU World Triathlon Series in Auckland, New Zealand.

Ranked ninth and 16th, respectively, in the current series rankings, Groff (Hanover, N.H.) and Jorgensen (St. Paul, Minn.) will take on a talented field of women Saturday afternoon. Jarrod Shoemaker (Clermont, Fla.), a fellow member of the National Team who sits at 24th in the rankings, is the lone American racing in the Sunday men’s final.  

The women’s race is scheduled to begin at 7:16 p.m. Eastern Friday, followed by the men at 8:06 p.m. Saturday. A live webcast of both races will be available from ITU at triathlonlive.tv.

After finishing third in the ITU World Triathlon Series rankings in 2011, Groff continued to turn in top performances on the WTS circuit for the 2012 season, claiming three top-seven finishes. The most impressive finish for Groff came on the Olympic course in August, where she surged on the run to join the lead pack and finished fourth.

Jorgensen’s 2012 season highlights include a win at the Banyoles ITU World Cup and a fourth-place finish at the Dextro Energy ITU World Triathlon Sydney. Her eighth-place finish in Yokohama just three weeks ago bumped her into the No. 2 spot for the Americans and 16th in the ITU rankings. Click here for a complete women’s start list.

Shoemaker is coming off a win at the USA Triathlon Elite National Championship and a fourth-place finish at the Cancun ITU Triathlon World Cup. He turned in a 10th-place finish at the Dextro Energy World Triathlon Sydney in April and also has a pair of ITU podium finishes under his belt for the season. With a 24th place ranking in the ITU standings, Shoemaker is the top American male. Click here for a complete men’s start list.

In addition to the elite races, the weekend also features the Under-23 and Junior World Championships. Merissa Ferrante (Aptos, Calif.) and Kaitlin Shiver (Gainesville, Fla.) will represent the women in the U-23 event Saturday morning, while Greg Billington (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Eric Lagerstrom (Gresham, Ore.) are set to compete in the men’s race Saturday afternoon. Winners of the 2012 USA Triathlon Under-23 National Championship titles last month in Buffalo, N.Y., Billington and Shiver both look to improve on fourth-place finishes from 2011 ITU Under-23 Worlds in Beijing. 

Six U.S. junior triathletes will compete Sunday on a 750-meter swim, 20-kilometer bike, 5-kilometer run course. Tony Smoragiewicz (Rapid City, S.D.) is the top U.S. returner from the 2011 event, where he finished third to join Lukas Verzbicas on the men’s podium. Johanna Gartman (Colorado Springs, Colo.), Breanna Hemming (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Tamara Gorman (Rapid City, S.D.) will kick off Sunday’s events in the junior women’s race. Smoragiewicz, William Huffman (Colleyville, Texas) and Eli Hemming (Kiowa, Colo.) take on the junior men’s field later that afternoon.

The WTS Grand Final, U-23 and Junior races are just part of the exciting multisport action taking place at Queen’s Wharf in Auckland. Nearly 400 Americans will also take part in the aquathlon, paratriathlon and sprint and Olympic-distance age group triathlon world championships. Visit usatriathlon.org for full coverage of each event.

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