By Paul D. Bowker | Aug. 31, 2019, 1:53 p.m. (ET)

Katie Zaferes celebrates winning the triathlon leader during the World Triathlon event on June 09, 2019 in Leeds, England.

 

Katie Zaferes crossed the finish line with a big smile Saturday in Lausanne, Switzerland, finishing out her career-best season with a World Triathlon Series championship.

Coming into the WTS Grand Final with a 755-point lead in the season standings, Zaferes didn’t need to win the race in order to take the title. However, after staying with the lead pack throughout the race, Zaferes blasted ahead of Great Britain’s Jessica Learmonth on the final stretch of the final lap to capture both the Grand Final and series titles.

Immediately after winning the race with a time of 2:02:45, Zaferes found Learmonth near the finish line and hugged her. Zaferes won by four seconds.

“I’m just really happy right now,” said Zaferes, a 2016 Olympian.

Zaferes finishes her season in first place in every ranking: ITU world rankings, WTS ranking, Olympic ranking and continental ranking. She totaled 6,175 points in the World Triathlon Series.

However, the 30-year-old Zaferes still needs to qualify for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. A crash in the bike portion of the Olympic qualification event on Aug. 14 in Tokyo took her out of that race as teammate Summer Rappaport instead finished high enough to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Team.

The next opportunity for Zaferes and the other Americans is the 2020 WTS stop next May in Yokohama, Japan.

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Beginning with a fifth-place series finish in 2015, Zaferes has climbed up one spot in the season WTS standings every year. Zaferes won her first three races this year and four of the seven heading into the Grand Final, for which points are weighted higher than the other races.

Zaferes was second out of the water behind Learmonth, then battled Learmonth, Great Britain’s Georgia Taylor-Brown and two others for the lead during the 40-kilometer bike race. The top five emerged from the bike portion within one second of each other, and then the run turned into a duel among Zaferes, Learmonth and Taylor-Brown.

Taylor-Brown fell back on the final lap of the run and finished third. Learmouth and Taylor-Brown also finished second and third in the season standings.

“This course, when I saw it I was like this is good for me as long as I’m having a good day,” Zaferes said, “and thankfully I had a good day.”

Spivey Taylor of the U.S. finished ninth. Taylor Knibb was 14th, and Rappaport 16th.

In just his second year on the elite men’s tour, Morgan Pearson finished 11th in the men’s race. He made an improvement of 30 places from last year’s grand final. Two other Americans finished in the top 30: Matt McElroy, in 28th place, and Eli Hemming in 30th.

Vincent Luis of France clinched the men’s season championship with a fifth-place finish Saturday. Kristian Blummenfelt of Norway won the race.

Paul D. Bowker has been writing about Olympic sports since 1996, when he was an assistant bureau chief in Atlanta. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.