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Manuel Huerta and Hunter Kemper celebrate after qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Team at the ITU World Triathlon San Diego.
photo: Larry Rosa / ITU Media

Best of 2012: Top Moments

Take a look back at the top U.S. triathlon moments of 2012

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Olympic years are special, and 2012 did not disappoint. From San Diego to London to Auckland — and many points in between — U.S. triathletes of all levels made 2012 a year to remember.

Check out our list of the top moments of 2012 and be sure to share your own top moments in the comments section.

April 21 – Collegiate Nationals Continues to Reach New Heights
Stanford sophomore Marissa Ferrante ran away from the women’s field, and UC Irvine graduate student Dustin McLarty avenged a 2011 runner-up finish to outlast nearly 1,300 competitors at the 2012 USA Triathlon Collegiate National Championship at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater. Colorado claimed the overall team championship for the third consecutive year and also swept the men’s and women’s team titles. California raced to a convincing win in the first-ever collegiate draft-legal Mixed Team Relay to close a memorable day. Collegiate Nationals continues to grow and has emerged as one of USA Triathlon’s signature events.

May 12 – ITU World Triathlon San Diego Makes Memorable Debut
One day after Laura Bennett (Boulder, Colo.) clinched the final women’s spot on the 2012 U.S. Olympic Triathlon Team, the men took center stage in front of thousands of fans, including many of the nearly 2,100 age-groupers who competed earlier in the day on same venue. When the dust had settled, Hunter Kemper (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Manuel Huerta (Miami, Fla.) finished in the top nine to automatically earn their spots in London. The emotion at the finish from Kemper, who overcame a serious elbow injury to make his fourth Olympic Team, and the Cuban-born Huerta, who fulfilled a lifetime dream of representing the U.S., formed one of the most memorable scenes in recent triathlon history.

May 19 – U.S. Delivers on Home Soil at ITU Cross Worlds
It’s always special to represent the U.S. at an ITU World Championship event, especially on your home soil. Americans combined for 18 off-road triathlon world championship titles — and 50 overall medals — at the second ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships, held in conjunction with the XTERRA Southeast Championships, at Oak Mountain State Park. Craig Evans (Hendersonville, Tenn.) was the top U.S. elite finisher, placing second to earn silver on the men's side in 2:12:58. Americans won 16 age-group titles, one junior championship and one paratriathlon title.

June 17 – U.S. Stars Sweep Banyoles ITU World Cup
Olympian Gwen Jorgensen (St. Paul, Minn.) earned her second career ITU World Cup win, and 19-year-old Lukas Verzbicas (Colorado Springs, Colo.) became the youngest U.S. athlete to win an ITU World Cup. The victories from Jorgensen and Verzbicas, who was making his World Cup debut, lifted the U.S. to its first sweep of gold at an ITU World Cup event since 1993.

July 27 – U.S. Triathletes, Staff Soak in Olympic Games Opening Ceremony
Olympians Manuel Huerta, Gwen Jorgensen and Hunter Kemper — along with Team Leader Andy Schmitz — relished the opportunity to walk in the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games in front of an estimated 900 million global viewers. From there, the team got out of the hustle and bustle of London to train in Guildford in the lead up to race day.

Aug. 4 – Gutsy Groff Nearly Medals at Olympic Games
Sarah Groff surged into medal contention on the final lap of the run and led the United States with a fourth-place finish at the 2012 Olympic Games women’s triathlon at Hyde Park. Over the course of the final 2.5k of the run, the determined Groff bridged back up to the leaders, while Great Britain’s Helen Jenkins dropped off the pace. The eventual medalists pulled away from Groff over the final few hundred meters to secure their spots on the Olympic Games podium, while Groff, who notched the day’s fifth-fastest run split at 33:52, took an impressive fourth in her Olympic Games debut. Groff recorded a time of exactly 2 hours to finish 12 seconds off the pace of gold medalist Nicola Spirig of Switzerland and silver medalist Lisa Norden of Sweden, who both finished in 1:59:48. Spirig was declared the winner in a dramatic photo finish that thrust the sport into the Olympic spotlight. Australia’s Erin Densham took bronze in 1:59:50.

Aug. 18-19 – Record Field Flocks to Age Group Nationals
A record 3,500 athletes signed on to compete over the course of two days at the 2012 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships in Burlington, Vt. Haley Chura (Atlanta, Ga.) and Brian Duffy (West Chester, Pa.) won the Olympic-distance titles, while Sonja Kent (West Boylston, Mass.) and Patrick Parish (Bloomington, Minn.) earned the sprint crowns. Since the Olympic-Distance and Sprint Nationals were combined into one weekend in 2010, participation in the event has nearly doubled.

Sept. 2 – Standout Field Chases Top Purse at Hy-Vee Triathlon
On the heels of the Olympic Games, the sport’s top names took aim at its largest single-day prize purse in Des Moines, Iowa. Olympic silver medalists Lisa Norden of Sweden and Javier Gomez of Spain were victorious, while Americans Sarah Haskins (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Hunter Kemper were both second. The field featured a who’s who of triathlon stars, including Alistair Brownlee, Chris McCormack, Laura Bennett, Sarah Groff and Leanda Cave.

Oct. 13 – Strong Effort by American Age-Groupers, Elites at Kona
While Australia’s Pete Jacobs and Great Britain’s Leanda Cave took the overall wins at the Ironman World Championship, U.S. elites had a promising showing with six combined top-10 finishes. Mary Beth Ellis (Boulder, Colo.) was fifth on the women’s side, while Olympian Andy Potts (Colorado Springs, Colo.) led the way for the men in seventh. American age-groupers won nine world titles, while a pair U.S. paratriathletes Andre Kajlich (Seattle, Wash.) and Amy Dodson (Tucson, Ariz.) won their respective categories.

Oct. 20 – Jorgensen Runs to Silver at ITU Grand Final
Gwen Jorgensen ran her way to a silver medal at the ITU World Triathlon Series Grand Final in Auckland, New Zealand, in dramatic fashion. Jorgensen was in the chase pack for the entirety of the bike, and entered T2 more than a minute behind the leaders. 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. The runner-up showing was Jorgensen’s best WTS finish 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. Jorgensen also finished ninth in the series rankings for a career-best ranking.

Oct. 21 – Gorman Reaches Junior Podium in Worlds Debut
On a rainy day in Auckland, junior Tamara Gorman (Rapid City, S.D.) earned a spot on the podium in her world championship debut at the 2012 ITU Junior World Championships. Gorman’s bronze marked the first medal for the U.S. women on the junior elite world stage. She posted the second-fastest run split of the day en route to the podium, crossing the finish line in 1:08:39 in the sprint-distance event.

Fall 2012 – Paratriathlon Earns the Spotlight
The U.S. paratriathletes took center stage in the fall of 2012 after earning 13 medals to top the medal count at the 2012 ITU Paratriathlon World Championships on Oct. 22. Leading the way for the U.S. was three-time world champion Melissa Stockwell (Chicago, Ill.), who earned U.S. Olympic Committee Athlete of the Month honors and was a finalist for the International Paralympic Committee’s Athlete of the Month for her efforts. On Nov. 29, USA Triathlon hosted the first-ever “Veterans to Victors” camp, designed to introduce wounded U.S. veterans to the sport.

For more on USA Triathlon's Best of 2012, visit our year-in-review section.

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