2022 Zone3 Youth & Junior Nationals Concludes With Mixed Relay, Age Group Races
by USA Triathlon
WEST CHESTER, Ohio — Racing action at the 2022 Zone3 USA Triathlon Youth & Junior Nationals wrapped up Sunday at Voice of America Park in West Chester, Ohio, as the MMTT Sammy’s Gold squad won the Mixed Relay event and 7-12-year-old triathletes and paratriathletes participated in the age group races.
The exciting weekend of racing also saw the debut of a dedicated racing category for athletes with an intellectual impairment. Adding the new category is a part of USA Triathlon’s continued efforts to increase opportunities and access for current and prospective youth athletes and encouraging a culture of equality in the sport. All athletes racing in the intellectual impairment wave received a free USA Triathlon youth annual membership, donated by the USA Triathlon Foundation.
Among the athletes competing in the first-ever intellectual impairment category at Youth & Junior Nationals included 15-year-old Caleb Prewitt (Jacksonville, Fla.). The exuberant young triathlete, who has Down syndrome, is an ambassador for the USA Triathlon Foundation. His idol is Chris Nikic, who in 2020 captivated and inspired the world when he became the first person with Down syndrome to complete an IRONMAN triathlon.
Nikic’s coach, Hector Torres, along with fellow USA Triathlon Certified Coach, Christine Palmquist, approached USA Triathlon with the idea of adding an intellectual impairment category at Youth & Junior Nationals.
“It's been a blessing coaching athletes with intellectual impairments. You see the development from when they first start training to see what they are capable of doing, like today at Youth & Junior Nationals,” Torres said. “They're all human beings. They all deserve a chance to compete. They have a voice. It's so great that we can give them the same opportunity we give all other athletes. Anything is possible and there is more and more to come.”
Athletes with intellectual impairments and youth paratriathletes raced the same course as the 11-12 year old youth age group, which encompassed a 200-meter swim, 10-kilometer bike and 2k run. Youth athletes in the age 7-10 age group raced a 100m swim, 5k bike and 1k run.
Concluding the fun weekend of youth and junior triathlon racing was the Mixed Relay, which has now been contested as part of Youth & Junior Nationals for 12 years. Each team is comprised of four athletes, two male and two female. Each competitor covers a 250-meter swim, 5-kilometer bike and 1.2-kilometer run before tagging off to the next teammate, with the fastest combined time winning the race.
The fast-paced, spectator-friendly format debuted as an Olympic medal event at last year’s Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, with the U.S. team of Katie Zaferes, Kevin McDowell, Taylor Knibb and Morgan Pearson winning the silver medal.
On Sunday in West Chester, the MMTT Sammy’s Gold team, made up of Carson Vanderschaaf (Marquette, Mich.), Britney Brown (O’Fallon, Ill.), Braxton Bokos (Oak Brook, Ill.) and Naomi Ruff (West Chicago, Ill.) won the national title, with a time of 1 hour, 9 minutes, 55 seconds.
For Bokos and Ruff, Sunday’s win was their second consecutive Mixed Relay national title, as both rising talents were members of last year’s national title winning team.
“I'm really happy this is the group we chose for our relay. It was a similar race to last year - it was really close and came down to the final two legs,” Bokos said. “I’m most happy for Carson. He had a bit of an unfortunate race yesterday and for him to come back today and prove that yesterday was not where he was with his fitness, was so great. I’m so happy he was on this team with us and we can be national champions together.”
Ruff, who won Saturday’s Junior Draft-Legal national title, was proud of her performance on the bike.
“I’m not from a biking background so to be able to solo that bike leg today was cool,” said Ruff, who is committed to Arizona State University to compete on the Division I women’s varsity triathlon team this upcoming school year.
For the second consecutive year, Youth & Junior Nationals implemented several changes to align with the American Development Model (ADM), a concerted effort between the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee and its sport National Governing Bodies to apply long-term athlete development principles in a way that resonates with the culture of sport in the United States. The ADM aims to create early positive experiences for youth athletes across all sports by promoting sustained sport participation.
Among the changes includes emphasizing participation and personal goal setting over competition for the younger age groups. “National Champion” titles were awarded to athletes ages 13-18, while athletes ages 7-12 received placement awards.
Visit usatriathlon.org/yjn2022 or download the digital event program for more information on the Zone3 USA Triathlon Youth & Junior Nationals.
2022 Zone3 USA Triathlon Youth & Junior Nationals
Mixed Relay: 4x250m swim, 5k draft-legal bike, 1.2k run
Age-Group 7-10: 100m swim, 5k bike, 1k run
Age-Group 11-12: 200m swim, 10k bike, 2k run
Paratriathlon and Intellectual Impairment: 200m swim, 10k bike, 2k run
1. MMTT Sammy’s Gold — Carson Vanderschaaf (Marquette, Mich.), Britney Brown (O’Fallon, Ill.), Braxton Bokos (Oak Brook, Ill.), Naomi Ruff (West Chicago, Ill.), 1:09:55
2. Project Podium — 1:10:21
3. MMTT Bam — 1:11:24
Paratriathlon Open Division
Male winner: Brock Kitterman, 32:37
Female winner: Magnolia Peters, 33:45
Age Group 7-10
Male winner: Matthew Thurman, 22:54
Female winner: Taelyn DeYoung, 22:31
Male winner: Keegan Reilly, 21:08
Female winner: Morgan Cuda, 20:10
Male winner: Theo Tollakson, 19:30
Female winner: Reese Krusa, 19:07
Male winner: Dylan Thompson, 18:16
Female winner: Lila Knutson, 18:59
Age Group 11-12
Male winner: Austin Courson, 32:09
Female winner: Addie DeYoung, 33:44
Male winner: Joseph McKillop, 30:49
Female winner: Autumn Gilhooly, 33:11
Age Group 11-12 Non-Binary
Winner: Corywn Bennett, 41:07
Male winner: Andrew Ahearn, 34:59
Female winner: Juliette Soos, 48:58