WEST CHESTER, Ohio—Rising triathlon stars Kyleigh Spearing, Darr Smith, Maryhelen Albright and Andrew Shellenberger captured junior elite and youth elite national titles on Saturday at Voice of America Park, kicking off the first of two days of racing featuring 1,000 young athletes for the 2017 USA Triathlon Youth & Junior National Championships.
Competing on a standard sprint 750-meter swim, 20-kilometer bike, 5-kilometer run course, Spearing (Frankfort, Ill.) won her first career national title in the junior elite women’s race, clocking in at 1 hour, 3 minutes, 15 seconds in the first race of the day. Spearing was near the front of the field on the swim and the bike legs, and then ran a 17:17 5k to claim the top spot on the podium. Spearing’s Z3 teammate Paige Horner (Johnston, Iowa) finished second in 1:04:07, and Kira Stanley (Acworth, Ga.) claimed bronze in 1:04:27.
“This season was about getting out and racing, and being happy and enjoying the sport. I can be nothing but thankful for this finish,” said Spearing, who came back from a fracture that delayed the start of her season.
Smith (Brookhaven, Ga.) had won two national titles previously as a youth elite athlete, and made a surge on the run to win his first junior elite title in 56:22. He was aided by a breakaway group including Chase McQueen (Columbus, Ind.), Fielding Fischer (Chevy Chase, Md.) and Eli Pugh (Rochester, Ind.), who all came out of the water together and rode in a group to put time up on the chasers on the bike leg. McQueen finished second in 56:56 while Fischer was third in 57:04.
“It feels really awesome. I know this course really well, since I’ve raced it quite a few times,” Smith said. “I’ve finished second and third as a junior here, so it feels really good to get the top spot this year.”
In the youth elite girls race, Albright (Roanoke, Va.) successfully defended her title after a solo effort on the swim and most of the bike. Covering a 350m swim, 10k bike and 2.5k run course, Albright shaved 2 minutes off her time from one year ago, finishing in 32:33 after posting the fastest run split of the day among girls 13-15. Abigail Church (South Riding, Va.) landed herself on the podium with a time of 32:48 and Makena Gates (Canton, Ga.) rounded out the podium in 33:03.
“I knew I had to go all out on the swim and try to get as much of a gap as I could,” said Albright, who moves up to the junior elite ranks next year. “One of my plans was to go solo on the bike, which happened for most of it. I had to not think about anything else [on the run]. I’m super excited to move up to the junior elite level because I want to do the longer swim and the longer run.”
Shellenberger (Indianapolis, Ind.) also benefited from a solo break, distancing himself from the rest of the field early to win his first youth elite title by a margin of more than 90 seconds. A winner of numerous age group national titles and last year’s runner-up, Shellenberger was chasing his first gold at the youth elite level and achieved success with a time of 29:31. The silver medal went to Nicholas Holmes (Glendale, Wis.), who posted a final time of 30:59, and Lane Hollis (Dalton, Ga.) finished in 31:09 for third.
“Obviously everybody’s got to come here with the mentality of, ‘I have a chance to win.’ I just thought if I could do these things for each discipline, it would all fall into place, and I executed way beyond my expectations,” Shellenberger said. “I’ve raced this course so many times that I know what to expect, and today threw me for a curveball with the headwinds, but it was all a great race.”
National championship action continues Sunday in Voice of America Park, with the fast and furious mixed-team relay set to begin the day at 7:30 a.m. ET. Then youth athletes from across the country will vie for age-group national titles in the Youth National Championships, set to begin at 10:40 a.m. ET. Athletes ages 7-10 will complete a 100m swim, 5k bike, 1k run course, and athletes ages 11-15 will race a 200m swim, 10k bike and 2k run.
Visit usatriathlon.org/usatjr17 for more information on USA Triathlon Youth & Junior Nationals.
2017 USA Triathlon Junior & Youth National Championships Results
Junior Elites: 750m swim, 20k bike, 5k run
Youth Elites: 375m swim, 10k bike, 2.5k run
Junior Elite Women
1. Kyleigh Spearing (Frankfort, Ill.), 1:03:15
2. Paige Horner (Johnston, Iowa), 1:04:07
3. Kira Stanley (Acworth, Ga.), 1:04:27
Junior Elite Men
1. Darr Smith (Brookhaven, Ga.), 56:22
2. Chase McQueen (Columbus, Ind.), 56:56
3. Fielding Fischer (Chevy Chase, Md.), 57:04
Youth Elite Women
1. Maryhelen Albright (Roanoke, Va.), 32:33
2. Abigail Church (South Riding, Va.), 32:48
3. Makena Gates (Canton, Ga.), 33:03
Youth Elite Men
1. Andrew Shellenberger (Indianapolis, Ind.), 29:31
2. Nicholas Holmes (Glendale, Wis.), 30:59
3. Lane Hollis (Dalton, Ga.), 31:09
USA Triathlon is proud to serve as the National Governing Body for triathlon, as well as duathlon, aquathlon, aquabike, winter triathlon, off-road triathlon and paratriathlon in the United States. Founded in 1982, USA Triathlon sanctions more than 4,300 races and connects with nearly 500,000 members each year, making it the largest multisport organization in the world. In addition to its work with athletes, coaches, and race directors on the grassroots level, USA Triathlon provides leadership and support to elite athletes competing at international events, including International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Championships, Pan American Games and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. USA Triathlon is a proud member of the ITU and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC).