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kanute
Kanute was the first finisher across the line Saturday. (Jason Wise/USA Triathlon)

Kanute, Mehnert Top Outstanding Field at USA Triathlon Collegiate Nationals

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TEMPE, Ariz. — The University of Arizona's Ben Kanute and the University of Colorado's Michelle Mehnert raced to Olympic-distance titles at the USA Triathlon Collegiate National Championships on Saturday at Tempe Beach Park.

Following his win in Friday's Draft-Legal Collegiate Championship, Kanute led the field of 605 men throughout the 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike, 10-kilometer run course to finish in 1 hour, 46 minutes, 36 seconds. Michael Poole from the University of South Florida was second in 1:47:08, and Iowa's Alex Libin logged a 33:29 run split to finish third in 1:47:15.

Kanute was part of a lead group of five athletes on the swim, including William Jones (UCSD), Davide Giardini (Colorado), Andrew Roos (Stanford) and Chris Braden (Colorado). After two laps on the bike, Kanute and Jones had an edge on the field as they transitioned to the run. Then Kanute unleashed on the run to finish more than 30 seconds ahead of the next closest competitor.

"Everything felt really solid," Kanute said. "It was just a matter of following my pace on the run and going hard to the finish. I wanted to get out to an early lead and try and hold that as long as possible. I knew once I got to the far turnaround and crossed the bridge, it was home free from there."

Mehnert, who is in her first year of representing Colorado, crossed the finish line in 2:01:13, more than a minute clear of the field. California's Erika Erickson finished second for the second straight day with a time of 2:02:28, and San Diego State's Brittany Braden finished in 2:03:28 for third.

Mehnert was second out of the water, following California's Shelley Harper, and the two had a solid lead as they headed out on the bike course. By the 20k mark, Mehnert had moved into the lead and then held off Erickson and Braden to finish atop the podium.

"I knew the Cal girls would be out fast in the swim," said Mehnert, a former Illinois swimmer. "Training in Colorado on the hills, I knew this course catered to my skills. It seemed like the perfect course to do well on for me so I tried to capitalize on that."

In all, 1,015 athletes representing 108 schools competed in the Olympic-distance Collegiate National Championship, an event that first began in 1994 at the Wildflower Triathlon.

Collegiate Nationals action at Tempe Beach Park concludes Saturday afternoon with the Mixed-Team Relay. Each four-person team must consist of two females and two males who will complete a super-sprint triathlon before tagging their teammate. All athletes will complete a 250-meter swim, 5k bike and 1.2k run.

Complete results and team standings will be announced at the award ceremony, which begins at 8 p.m. PDT at the Tempe Market Place, and will also be available on usatriathlon.org.

USA Triathlon Collegiate National Championships
Olympic-Distance Championship
1,500m swim, 40k bike, 10k run

Men's Overall
1. Ben Kanute (Arizona), 1:46:36
2. Michael Poole (USF), 1:47:08
3. Alex Libin (Iowa), 1:47:15

Women's Overall
1. Michelle Mehnert (Colorado), 2:01:13
2. Erika Erickson (California), 2:02:28
3. Brittany Braden (San Diego State), 2:03:28

Click here to view all Collegiate National Championship results

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