WEST CHESTER, Ohio — The top youth and junior triathletes in the country showcased their talent on Saturday at the USA Triathlon Youth & Junior National Championships, held at Voice of America Park in West Chester for the seventh consecutive year. Gillian Cridge and Fielding Fischer claimed junior elite national titles, while Cassidy Hickey and Andrew Flynn grabbed the youth elite crowns.
Competing on a draft-legal 750-meter swim, 20-kilometer bike and 5-kilometer run course, Gillian Cridge (Indianapolis, Ind.) captured the women’s junior elite title. Cridge exited the water in sixth and headed onto the bike with a pack that included Leah Drengenberg (Dixon, Ill.), Liberty Ricca (Colorado Springs, Colo.), Parker Albright (Roanoake, Va.), Kira Stanley (Acworth, Ga) and Paige Horner (Johnston, Iowa). Audrey Ernst (South Elgin, Ill.) also worked her way into the lead group, and those seven built a gap of more than 30 seconds on the rest of the field by the end of the four-lap course.
Cridge laid down the hammer on the run, clocking a 17-minute, 25-second 5k to break the tape in 1:01:29. Albright grabbed the silver in 1:01:42, and Horner rounded out the podium in 1:01:55.
“I think I executed the race really well, but a huge portion of it for me was definitely my swim because I never really know where I’m going to come out,” Cridge said. “So right off the dive off the pontoon, I made sure to get on somebody’s feet who I knew would be in the first pack and just work with all the girls from there. And then we just kept it steady on the bike making sure we kept a gap in between the second group and our group. Then on the run, I just gave it everything I got.”
Fielding Fischer (Chevy Chase, Md.) claimed the men’s junior elite victory. He started strong with a race-leading 9:06 swim split, putting him about 20 seconds ahead of a trio of chasers: Ricky Dungan (Wilmington, Ohio), Drew Shellenberger (Indianapolis, Ind.) and Luis Ortiz (Orlando, Fla.). Fischer headed onto the bike solo, but was caught about 10k in by Shellenberger and Ortiz. He regained his advantage on the run, clocking a 15:35 5k to take the tape in 56:16. Ortiz was 20 seconds behind to claim silver in 56:36, and Shellenberger held on for the bronze in 57:35.
“I was kind of hoping I had someone else on the bike course, but I just saw I had a little gap and I went for it,” Fischer said. “Luckily, when the other two guys came around I was able to work with them a little bit more and try to save some energy for the run — and then I just dug deep.”
In the youth elite girls’ race, it was Cassidy Hickey (Parker, Colo.) who took top honors on the draft-legal 375m swim, 10k bike and 2.5k run course. Hickey had some ground to make up after the swim, exiting the water in 23rd place and finding herself in the second chase pack on the bike. Meanwhile, Faith Dasso (New Braunfels, Texas) went for a solo breakaway off the front, building a gap on the five-strong first chase group.
By the second transition, Hickey and several others had successfully bridged up to the first chase. About 10 girls headed onto the run together, all chasing Dasso who had about a 10-second lead. Hickey and Hope Frost (Suffolk, Va.) ran their way up to the leader, and all three girls finished in an all-out sprint down the chute. Hickey took the win in 33:18, followed by Dasso just a second later, and Frost another second behind. The fastest run of the day belonged to Macy Iyer, who covered the 2.5k course in 9 minutes flat to move up to eighth place.
“On the bike, I wasn’t catching the pack as fast as I wanted to. With Faith pulling that front pack before she jumped, it was making it hard for me to catch, because she’s a really strong biker. Then when she jumped, it caused the pack to quickly slow down, which allowed me to catch,” Hickey said. “She also scared me a little bit on the run. I’ve outrun her, but she skipped a couple races this year to really work on her run, and she did a really good job of doing that. As soon as I could see the finish chute, I went for it and never looked back.”
Andrew Flynn (Wilmette, Ill.) earned the national title for the youth elite boys. Flynn exited the water in 10th place, about 15 seconds back from swim leader Kasey Copley (Cedar Park, Texas). A quick transition put him in the hard-charging chase pack, and they quickly reeled in the early breakaway by Jack Larkin (King of Prussia, Pa.) and Lawson McLeod (Tampa, Fla.).
A sizeable group was still bunched together at the second transition, leaving the medals to be decided on the run. Flynn executed perfectly, recording a race-leading 8:10 run split to grab the win in 30:21. Graham Tuohy (Lakewood, Colo.), who had been neck-in-neck with Flynn until the final kilometer, crossed the line second in 30:39. McLeod snagged the bronze with a time of 30:48.
“I was the first one coming out of the second transition, and I thought I had maybe a little bit of a lead on Graham,” Flynn said. “But all of a sudden he came flying past me right after transition, and I kept thinking to myself, ‘I’ve got to stay with him, or he’s going to win it.’ So I really tried to crank it on that run. When I was on that last straightaway, I could hear all my teammates cheering for me, and I really tried to gun it all the way down the chute.”
Racing returns to Voice of America Park on Sunday, with the fast-paced Mixed Team Relay National Championships kicking things off at 7:30 a.m. ET. The triathlon mixed relay will debut as a medal event at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Then, starting at 10:40 a.m., more than 700 athletes from across the country will compete for age-group titles at the Youth National Championships. This event does not require qualification, and races are not draft-legal. Athletes ages 7-10 will complete a 100m swim, 5k bike and 1k run course, while athletes ages 11-15 will race a 200m swim, 10k bike and 2k run. Competitors in the paratriathlon open division will cover the same course as the 11- to 15-year-olds.
More than 1,000 young athletes in total are competing over two days at Voice of America Park. Visit usatriathlon.org/jr2018 for more information on the USA Triathlon Youth & Junior National Championships.
2018 USA Triathlon Youth & Junior National Championships
Junior Elites: 750m swim, 20k bike, 5k run
Youth Elites: 375m swim, 10k bike, 2.5k run
Junior Elite Women
1. Gillian Cridge (Indianapolis, Ind.), 1:01:29
2. Maryhelen “Parker” Albright (Roanoke, Va.), 1:01:42
3. Paige Horner (Johnston, Iowa), 1:01:55
Junior Elite Men
1. Fielding Fischer (Chevy Chase, Md.), 56:16
2. Luis Ortiz (Orlando, Fla.), 56:36
3. Drew Shellenberger (Indianapolis, Ind.), 57:35
Youth Elite Women
1. Cassidy Hickey (Parker, Colo.), 33:18
2. Faith Dasso (New Braunfels, Texas), 33:19
3. Hope Frost (Suffolk, Va.), 33:20
Youth Elite Men
1. Andrew Flynn (Wilmette, Ill.), 30:21
2. Graham Tuohy (Lakewood, Colo.), 30:39
3. Lawson McLeod (Tampa, Fla.), 30:48
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).