Colorado Springs - Facing a 1 minute handicap to start the last event, the Combined, Samantha Achterberg, Littleton, CO came from behind to win the US National Championship by 6 seconds over Grace Kittle, Denver, CO in an exciting finish. Grace opened by winning the first 2 events and held a commanding lead going into the combined event.
Grace shot nearly perfectly and was off before Samantha came to the range. Though off to a poor start missing her first 4 shots, mustering the composure that she has learned as she has gained experience in the sport, she slowed her rhythm and proceeded to hit 4 of the next 6 shots to conclude the first round of shooting.
Grace was having a good event, but Samantha would narrow the gap with each loop. The spectators watching the event at the US Olympic Training Center new that they were seeing a classic finish as the 2 combatants had battled throughout the day and were drawn to the dramatic final event.
As the 2 veterans exited the shooting range for a fourth and final time, Graces' lead was down to 6 seconds. As the pentathletes raced past the fans for a final time before disappearing on the back side of the course, Samantha had closed to within 2 seconds.
Mightily Grace tried to hold her teammate off as they disappeared from view --all the spectators could do was hold their breath and wait until they came back into view on the final hill.
The spectators didn't have to wait long before the first runner came back into view....it was Samantha followed ever so closely by Grace. In the end it was Samantha’s long distance running training that provided the edge as she crossed the finish line 6 seconds ahead of Grace Kittle taking the title and gold medal while Grace took home the silver.
It was the climactic finish of a great day of competition. There are many that feel that the Training Center is hallowed ground as the training field and proving center for America’s Olympians, a place where Olympic Champions are made.
Whether or not today’s warriors will become Olympians or Olympic Champions as we move ever closer to Rio 2016 remains to be seen, but one thing is sure; Samantha Achterberg found the right stuff today to become America’s National Champion.
The Men compete tomorrow. The World Cup Final is next weekend in Minsk with the World Championship starting June 29th in Berlin.
To view or download the complete results from today's action, please click here.