GREENVILLE, S.C. — Todd Buckingham (Big Rapids, Mich.), 29, and Makena Gates (Canton, Ga.), 16, were crowned overall national champions on Saturday at the Draft-Legal Sprint Duathlon National Championships, kicking off a busy weekend of racing at the USA Triathlon Duathlon National Championships in Greenville, South Carolina.
Twenty-six national champions were crowned in their age groups on a rainy morning at Lakeside Park. In total, 303 athletes finished the sprint-distance course, which featured a 5-kilometer run, 18-kilometer bike and 2.85-kilometer run. The draft-legal race, which had been held as a World Championship qualifier in previous years, was considered a National Championship for the first time in 2018.
In the men’s race, Benjamin Snodgrass (Portland, Ore.), Jesse Bauer (Edmonton, Alberta), Derek Stone (Nashville, Tenn.), Buckingham and Spencer Shellberg (DeWitt, Mich.) were the leaders after the first run. They formed a hard-charging lead pack on the bike, and several more men worked their way into the group over the three-lap course.
The podiums would come down to the final run, as the top nine men were just 10 seconds separated at the end of the bike. Buckingham took the win with a time of 53 minutes, 38 seconds — thanks to a race-leading 9:05 run split — and earned the men’s 25-29 title in the process. He was followed by 30-year-old Stone, who took second in 53:42, and 42-year-old Kenneth Svendsen (Charlotte, N.C.), who claimed third in 53:48.
“Derek took it out really strong on the second run there, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, let’s back it off a little.’ Thankfully I was able to hang in there,” said Buckingham, who is also racing in both the Non-Drafting Standard and Non-Drafting Sprint National Championships tomorrow. “I wanted to make sure I was up at the front on the bike, then lay it down on the run and try to save a little bit for tomorrow.”
In the women’s race, it was a close battle for the win between Gates, 15-year-old Cassidy Hickey (Parker, Colo.) and 39-year-old Kirsten Sass (McKenzie, Tenn.). Gates ripped through the first 5k run in 18:18, followed seconds later by Sass, Brooke Kessler (Harpers Ferry, W.V.) and Hickey.
At the end of the bike, Hickey, Sass and Gates had bunched together and built a gap of more than three minutes on the rest of the field. Gates, however, pulled away on the run once again to claim the overall and women’s 15-19 titles in 1:00:46. Sass and Hickey went head-to-head in a sprint finish to take second (1:01:06) and third (1:01:08), respectively.
“I was just coming here to have fun,” Gates, who is also a 2017 national champion in the multisport discipline of aquathlon, said. “I knew Cassidy was coming too, so I was excited to be able to race her again. I had heard of Kirsten before, and I knew she was really fast, so I was looking forward to that. It feels incredible, I’m overwhelmed.”
Sass, a veteran of the sport and multi-time USA Triathlon Duathlete of the Year, said she was impressed with the talent of up-and-coming young women in multisport after battling it out with Gates and Hickey. Sixteen-year-old Alexandra Poole (Farmington, Conn.) also had a strong race, placing fourth overall.
“These two took off super-fast right from the get-go, so my goal was to keep them in sight. Then we got out on the bike and they just laid it down. I like to bike race hard, so it was fun to keep the pace high and work together,” Sass said. “It’s so exciting — we just need young women in the sport to keep it going.”
Young athletes also had strong showings on the men’s side, as 19-year-old Jared Eytcheson (Cary, N.C.) and 16-year-old Lane Hollis (Dalton, Ga.) placed eighth and ninth respectively overall.
Three athletes successfully defended their 2017 draft-legal duathlon titles in their age groups, including Valerie Eipper (F55-59, Longmont, Colo.), David Burkhart (M60-64, Brighton, Mich.) and Kenneth Fleischhacker (M80-84, Littleton, Colo.).
The racing action continues Sunday with the Non-Draft Standard and Non-Draft Sprint National Championships. The standard-distance race, which covers an 8.45k run, 39k bike and 4.5k run, is set for 7:30 a.m. ET. The sprint race follows at 1:05 p.m. ET, and features a 5k run, 18.2k bike and 2.85k run. More than 850 athletes are expected to compete throughout the weekend, and about 250 are participating in more than one race.
For complete information, live tracking and final results from the USA Triathlon Duathlon National Championships, visit usatriathlon.org/du2018. Participants, media, family and friends can follow the action throughout the weekend at @USATLive on Twitter. Live tracking is also available on the new USA Triathlon Events App, free to download on the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.
Draft-Legal Sprint Duathlon National Championships
5k run, 18k bike, 2.85k run
Male Overall: Todd Buckingham (Big Rapids, Mich.), 53:38
Female Overall: Makena Gates (Canton, Ga.), 1:00:46
Male Masters: Kenneth Svendsen (Charlotte, N.C.), 53:48
Female Masters: Jamie Martens (Mission, Kan.), 1:05:07
Male Grand Masters: David Burkhart (Brighton, Mich.), 1:01:56
Female Grand Masters: Valerie Eipper (Longmont, Colo.), 1:10:59
M15-19: Jared Eytcheson (Cary, N.C.), 54:15
F15-19: Makena Gates (Canton, Ga.), 1:00:46
M20-24: Spencer Shellberg (DeWitt, Mich.), 54:51
M25-29: Todd Buckingham (Big Rapids, Mich.), 53:38
F25-29: Christina Bax (Bethesda, Md.), 1:07:47
M30-34: Derek Stone (Nashville, Tenn.), 53:42
F30-34: Brooke Kessler (Harpers Ferry, W.V.), 1:04:46
M35-39: Todd Ricketts (Newark, Ohio), 55:36
F35-39: Kirsten Sass (McKenzie, Tenn.), 1:01:06
M40-44: Kenneth Svendsen (Charlotte, N.C.), 53:48
F40-44: Jamie Martens (Mission, Kan.), 1:05:07
M45-49: Thomas Woods (Lincoln, Neb.), 56:29
F45-49: Ute Nestler (Plano, Texas), 1:06:04
M50-54: Mark Hecox (Salem, N.H.), 1:00:10
F50-54: Christine Grant (Gainesville, Ga.), 1:08:05
M55-59: Marty Stiegmann (Glen Allen, Va.), 1:01:06
F55-59: Valerie Eipper (Longmont, Colo.), 1:10:59
M60-64: David Burkhart (Brighton, Mich.), 1:01:56
F60-64: Julia Daggett (Clarksville, Tenn.), 1:14:31
M65-69: John Lies (Lawrenceburg, Ind.), 1:05:46
F65-69: Ruth King (Ambler, Penn.), 1:29:14
M70-74: Larry Mayse (Alpharetta, Ga.), 1:15:44
F70-74: Sharon Gerl (Springfield, Ore.), 1:24:11
M75-79: Leo Fohl (Macedonia, Ohio), 1:30:37
F75-79: Karen Hasque (Odessa, Fla.), 1:52:40
M80-84: Kenneth Fleischhacker (Littleton, Colo.), 1:36:16
About USA Triathlon
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 events and connects with more than 400,000 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).