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Many of the nation's top rising triathlon stars visited Colorado Springs last weekend.

USA Triathlon Hosts Top Junior Women at OTC

Thirteen of the nation's best juniors — and two Olympians — visited Colorado Springs last weekend


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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — USA Triathlon made an investment in the future of its high performance program last weekend with the first-ever Junior Elite Women’s Camp at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

Thirteen of the nation’s top rising triathlon stars — young women ages 15-17 — spent two full days learning from and training alongside some of USA Triathlon’s top coaches and a pair of 2012 U.S. Olympians — Sarah Groff and Gwen Jorgensen.

“The purpose of the camp is to engage the next generation of fast-rising junior women and give them an extra boost of encouragement to commit to the sport long term,” USA Triathlon Athlete Development Coordinator Steve Kelley said.

USA Triathlon High Performance Team coaches nominated 25 junior women, and 13 were ultimately selected for the camp, which was led by Regional Athlete Development Coordinators Kathleen Johnston (Nashville, Tenn.) and Sharon Osgood (Carmel Valley, Calif.).

The camp featured a pair of group swims and runs and lots of time for sharing and discussion. The aim of the weekend was about connecting socially for the up-and-coming athletes, just as much as it was about training. Osgood referred to the low-pressure weekend as “more of a retreat than a training camp.”

Johnston added, “The junior women are really socially driven, and it’s important for them to have an environment where they know there are others out there who are like them. They can have good friends in the sport.”

Many of the athletes in attendance knew each other from competing in Youth Elite and Junior Elite events over the past few years, but last weekend marked the first real opportunity for them to train side by side and get to know one another beyond race day.  

“This weekend is a just a great experience for all the young women athletes to come together and grow in camaraderie,” said Hannah Rae Finchamp (Altadena, Calif.). “We see each other at the races all year long so this is an opportunity to get to know each other on a personal level as well as a competitive level and see the U.S. [Olympic] Training Center and what might be the in the future for some of us.”

Fifteen-year-old Ciara Hopkins (Clermont, Fla.) agreed, “I’m one of the youngest and I’m from Florida, so I don’t really get to train with these guys a lot … Being able to train together for these couple of days is really great.”

Highlights of the weekend also included utilizing the same training facilities as scores of Olympians and interacting with Groff and Jorgensen, who represent where many of these young women aspire to be in a few years. Camp attendees like Hopkins and teammate Malia Ellington took pictures all around the Olympic Training Center to remember the event.  

“I think it’s a pretty special experience,” Stephanie Jenks (Aurora, Iowa) said.

The weekend also impacted the two USA Triathlon National Team members, who made time to give back to their sport after wrapping up a lengthy Olympic year of competition and training.

“I think it’s really important to help grow our sport to help out with the juniors, the girls especially,” Jorgensen said. “It’s really exciting that we have some young girls who are interested in the sport, and I want to help keep that excitement going.”

“I really loved interacting with the athletes; they are smart, energetic and love the sport. I returned home excited for the future of USA Triathlon and a bit sad that I couldn’t bring them all home with me,” Groff said.

And while the juniors might have been star struck initially, Groff and Jorgensen quickly made them feel right at home. “They’re just regular people. They just happen to be exceptional athletes,” said Osgood about the pair of Olympians.

Groff agreed. “Sometimes there is a misconception that successful athletes are singularly focused and a bit dull,” she said. “Hopefully they realize that you can be a normal — and occasionally goofy — person and still race at a high level with hard work and persistence.”

The camp was funded in large part by generous contributions from Team USA members Mark Hofer and Heather Leach to USA Triathlon’s Junior Development Scholarship Fund.

Hofer and Leach have agreed to match any contributions up to $3,000 for the fund, which will provide future opportunities for rising triathlon stars to attend USA Triathlon-organized camps and clinics. For more information on contributing to the fund, contact USA Triathlon COO Tim Yount at

2012 USA Triathlon Junior Elite Women’s Camp Roster:
• Name (Age, State, Team)
• Malia Ellington (15, North Carolina, Triton Elite)
• Ciara Hopkins (15, Florida, Triton Elite)
• Stephanie Jenks (15, Iowa, Mach II)
• Tamara Gorman (16, South Dakota, Z3)
• Danielle Nivinski (16, California, MBM)
• Ryan Sotebeer (16, Colorado, Phenomena)
• Devon Dabney (17, Georgia, Southeast)
• Hannah Rea Finchamp (17, California, TTS)
• Taylor Fogg (17, Colorado)
• Katie Gorczyca (17, Nevada, MBM)
• Haele Jasen (17, Wisconsin, Z3)
• Kate Lowrey (17, Minnesota, MJET)
• Melissa Teeple (17, Virginia, Endorphin)

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Juniors, Gwen Jorgensen, Sarah True