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photo: Delly Carr/ITU

Jorgensen Strikes Silver in ITU World Triathlon Grand Final

Groff, Jorgensen finish 2012 with top-nine world rankings

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AUCKLAND, New Zealand — 2012 U.S. Olympian Gwen Jorgensen ran her way to a silver medal Saturday at the ITU World Triathlon Series Grand Final, and along with ninth-place finisher Sarah Groff earned a top-nine world ranking in the final series standings.

Jorgensen (St. Paul, Minn.) logged a time of 2 hours, 11 minutes on the 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike, 10-kilometer run course to earn second place. The silver medal was her best finish position of the season, as well as the highest placing for an American at the ITU Grand Final in the four-year history of the series. Groff (Hanover, N.H.) finished ninth in 2:11:20 to move up to seventh in the overall rankings. Combined with Jorgensen’s ninth-place final ranking, it is the second consecutive season for two U.S. women to finish in the top-10 in the final ITU series rankings.

Anne Haug of Germany broke away from the pack on the final laps of the run to win the race in 2:10:48. Chile’s Barbara Riveros Diaz finished third with a time of 2:11:01, and finishing fourth, Lisa Norden from Sweden claimed the2012 ITU World Triathlon Series title.

Holding true to form, Groff was among the first few swimmers out of the water and became part of the lead bike pack, which eventually grew to 19 athletes. Jorgensen was in the chase pack for the entirety of the bike, and entered T2 more than a minute behind the leaders. “I just tried to do my best in the pack I was in,” she said. “I knew that everyone had to suffer on this course and no one could hide on the hills.”

Over the course of four run laps, Jorgensen chiseled away the time between her and the lead runners, sprinting to the finish and running 34:10, the fastest run split of the day. “I think everyone goes for it,” Jorgensen said. “When you get off the bike, you want to put together the best run you can. I was feeling good thankfully, and I just kept moving up and ran as fast as I could.”

The race marked the end of a strong season for both Jorgensen and Groff, who finishes the season as the top ranked U.S. athlete for the second year in a row. She was third overall in the series rankings in 2011.

“My race is trying to get a good series ranking and trying to see what’s going on around me,” Groff said after the race. She finished fourth in the Olympic Games earlier this year, and said that was her main focus in training. “To have a great race here would have been the icing on the cake,” she said. “But it really was just about that one race this year.”

Though she was hoping to have a better finish for the day, Groff was proud of her teammate’s second-place effort. “It was a great day for Gwen, so I’m happy for USA Triathlon,” she said. “Both of us had solid races and it’s good for the program.”

Saturday’s races also included the Under-23 World Championships for men and women. Greg Billington (Colorado Springs, Colo.) was the top U23 finisher for the U.S., finishing eighth in the men’s race with a time of 1:59:32. Coming out of the water, Billington became part of the chase group and was unable to bridge the gap to the leaders. He knew he had to make his move on the run, his forte as a former collegiate runner from Wake Forest.

“Coming off the bike, it’s always hard to be in the pack two minutes down,” he said. “Today I was able to stay focused and know that I had a good run in my legs, and after all the work I put through, it would be a waste to not give my best on that run.”

Eric Lagerstrom (Gresham, Ore.), a newcomer to the U23 circuit, finished 33rd. Visit triathlon.org to read more about the men’s Under-23 World Championship.

Another U23 newcomer Merrissa Ferrante (Aptos, Calif.) finished 19th in the women’s race Saturday morning with a time of 2:17:45. Ferrante won the USA Triathlon Collegiate National Championship in April. “The big difference I noticed was on the run,” she said of her first U23 experience. “Here, everyone is pretty steady. It takes a long time just to catch up to someone.”

Kaitlin Shiver (Gainesville, Fla.), who finished fourth at this event last year in Beijing, was near the front coming out of the water but had to end her day mid-way through the bike due to mechanical issues. Visit triathlon.org for a recap of the women’s U23 race.

The action continues at Queen’s Wharf in Auckland on Sunday, with the elite men and junior men and women set to compete. Nearly 400 U.S. athletes will also compete on Monday in the paratriathlon and sprint- and Olympic-distance triathlon events. Visit usatriathlon.org for full coverage of all the events.

Auckland ITU World Triathlon Series Grand Final
1,500m swim, 40k bike, 10k run
Elite Women – Click here for complete results

1. Anne Haug (GER), 2:10:48
2. Gwen Jorgensen (St. Paul, Minn.), 2:11:00

3. Barbara Riveros Diaz (CHI), 2:11:01
9. Sarah Groff (Hanover, N.H.), 2:11:20

2012 ITU World Triathlon Series Final Rankings – Click here for complete rankings
1. Lisa Norden (SWE), 4531
2. Anne Haug (GER), 4340
3. Andrea Hewitt (NZL), 3893
4. Barbara Riveros Diaz (CHI), 3707
5. Erin Densham (AUS), 3611
6. Nicola Spirig (SUI), 3264
7. Sarah Groff (USA), 3232

8. Ainhoa Murua (ESP), 3065
9. Gwen Jorgensen (USA), 3048

10. Kate McIlroy (NZL), 3044

ITU Under-23 World Championships
1,500m swim, 40k bike, 10k run
Men – Click here for complete results

1. Aaron Royle (AUS), 1:57:17
2. Fernando Alarza (ESP), 1:57:20
3. Thomas Bishop (GBR), 1:57:21
8. Greg Billington (Colorado Springs, Colo.), 1:59:32
33. Eric Lagerstrom (Gresham, Ore.), 2:04:01

Women – Click here for complete results
1. Non Stanford (GBR), 2:13:06
2. Sarissa DeVries (NED), 2:13:15
3. Joanna Brown (CAN), 2:14:12
19. Marissa Ferrante (Aptos, Calif.), 2:17:45
DNF. Kaitlyn Shiver (Gainesville, Fla.)

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