WEST CHESTER, Ohio — Racing action at the USA Triathlon Youth & Junior National Championships wrapped up on Sunday at Voice of America Park, as MMTT – Sammy’s Gold won the Mixed Team Relay event and age-group national champions were crowned for ages 7-15.
The Mixed Team Relay has been contested as part of Youth & Junior Nationals for the past nine years. Each team is comprised of four athletes, two male and two female. Each competitor covers a super-sprint 250-meter swim, 5-kilometer bike and 1.2-kilometer run before tagging off to the next teammate, with the fastest combined time winning the race. The fast-paced, spectator-friendly format will debut as a medal event at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, allowing Olympic triathletes to earn two medals at a single Games for the first time.
The MMTT – Sammy’s Gold team of Leah Drengenberg (Dixon, Ill.), Jack DeWeerdt (Hoffman Estates, Ill.), Audrey Ernst (South Elgin, Ill.) and Luis Ortiz (Orlando, Fla.) covered the course in a combined time of 1 hour, 9 minutes, 36 seconds.
The second-place team was Z3 Team Gold in 1:09:52, represented by Olivia Jenks (Ames, Iowa), Davis Bove (Franklin, Tenn.), Paige Horner (Johnston, Iowa) and Nicholas Johnson (West Des Moines, Iowa).
Rounding out the relay podium was ORIGIN Performance Squad ITU Training Group in 1:10:02, comprised of Kira Stanley (Acworth, Ga.), Zach Wilson (Carmel, Ind.), Gillian Cridge (Indianapolis, Ind.) and Drew Shellenberger (Indianapolis, Ind.).
Drengenberg led off for MMTT and had the fastest swim of her leg, but dropped back to sixth by the first handoff as ORIGIN Performance Squad’s Stanley tagged off first. On the second leg, Z3 Team Gold’s Bove moved up to the lead, while MMTT’s DeWeerdt worked his way into the runner-up spot. MMTT’s Ernst surged into the lead in the final meters of her run in leg three, overtaking Z3’s Jenks before handing off to Ortiz. On the anchor leg, Ortiz continued to widen the gap to give MMTT the decisive victory.
“I just feel incredibly blessed to have such great teammates here,” said Ernst, who finished fourth in the women’s junior elite race yesterday. “Everyone really put in a huge effort to make that win possible. In my last year as a junior, it was definitely the highlight. It’s so much fun to be out here with my team, racing hard. It was really, really incredible.”
“It felt amazing,” said Luis, who took second for junior elite men yesterday. “It was my honor to be a part of the MTTT relay team this year. We all did a great job, and I couldn’t be prouder of all of us.”
After the relay, more than 700 youth age-group athletes took to the course. The 7- to 10-year-olds completed a 100m swim, 5k bike and 1k run course, while 11- to 15-year-olds covered a 200m swim, 10k bike and 2k run. National champions were crowned for each age group, including five who repeated as age-group winners for the second consecutive year: Ellie Harlow (Glen Allen, Va., age 8), Brayden Barrett (Haslet, Texas, age 9), Dylan Mirakian (Fairway, Kan., age 10) and Josie Nunziata (Suffolka, Va., age 14). Hazel Wells (Richmond, Va., age 11), repeated for the fourth consecutive year, as she also won her age group in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
“I had an excellent run and a good finish, so I’m happy with today.” said Ben Capozzi, who trains with the Get Fit Families club and claimed the boys’ age 14 national title. “Last year, I got 33rd. I think (I did so well today) because I just worked really, really hard. I didn’t stop training, I went to as many practices as I could. My coach, Joella (Baker), does practices every day, which is different than many of the other teams. It’s good because it helps you develop social relationships with people and it also helps me build my confidence.”
Harlow, the girls’ age 8 champion, said she loves coming to Nationals with her Endorphin Fitness team.
“It’s fun because I get to race my friends,” Harlow said. “My race felt good. It felt like I did a really good job.”
Owen Cravens (Algonquin, Ill.) and guide Eric Palmquist (Geneva, Ill.) were the top male paratriathletes, covering the 200m swim, 10k bike and 2k run course in 29:56.
“I think the best part of the race was our swim. We had a pretty strong swim, but I got a little tired on the bike,” Cravens said. “We had some more competition in the race this year with some of the other tandems. (Eric and I) have a good relationship, so we can have fun on the bike while also competing.”
Maggie Peters (Fort Wayne, Ill.) and guide Tessa Brennan (Aurora, Ill.) were the top female paratriathletes, crossing the line in 41:05.
In the club standings, Multisport Madness Triathlon Team took the win with 19,772 points. Get Fit Families was second with 15,517 points, and Endorphin Fitness was third with 11,417.
Voice of America Park has hosted the USA Triathlon Youth & Junior National Championships since 2012, and will continue to do so through 2021. Visit usatriathlon.org/jr2018 for complete information about Youth & Junior Nationals.
2017 USA Triathlon Youth and Junior National Championships
Mixed Team Relay: 4x250m swim, 5k draft-legal bike, 1.2k run
Age-Group 7-10: 100m swim, 5k bike, 1k run
Age-Group 11-15: 200m swim, 10k bike, 2k run
Mixed Team Relay
1. MMTT – Sammy’s Gold – Leah Drengenberg, (Dixon, Ill.), Jack DeWeerdt (Hoffman Estates, Ill.), Audrey Ernst (South Elgin, Ill.), Luis Ortiz (Orlando, Fla.), 1:09:36
2. Z3 Team Gold – Olivia Jenks (Ames, Iowa), Davis Bove (Franklin, Tenn.), Paige Horner (Johnston, Iowa), Nicholas Johnson (West Des Moines, Iowa), 1:09:52
3. ORIGIN Performance Squad ITU Training Group – Kira Stanley (Acworth, Ga.), Zach Wilson (Carmel, Ind.), Gillian Cridge (Indianapolis, Ind.), Drew Shellenberger (Indianapolis, Ind.),1:10:02
Paratriathlon Open Division
Male winner: Owen Cravens (Algonquin, Ill.) and guide Eric Palmquist (Geneva, Ill.), 29:56
Female winner: Maggie Peters (Fort Wayne, Ill.) and guide Tessa Brennan (Aurora, Ill.), 41:06
Female winner: Evelyn Degeest (Tea, S.D.), 25:28
Male winner: Austin Courson (Jacksonville, Fla.), 23:07
Female winner: Ellie Harlow (Glen Allen, Va.), 21:55
Male winner: Joseph McKillop (Elmhurst, Ill.), 20:00
Female winner: Josie Nunziata (Suffolk, Va.), 20:05
Male winner: Brayden Barrett (Haslet, Texas), 17:26
Female winner: Andrea Rogerson (Maidens, Va.), 18:41
Male winner: Dylan Mirakian (Fairway, Kan.), 17:18
Female winner: Hazel Wells (Richmond, Va.), 32:37
Male winner: Gabe Nunziata (Suffolk, Va.), 31:11
Female winner: Clara James-Heer (Grand Rapids, Mich.), 29:36
Male winner: Jack Diemar (Eagle, Colo.), 29:26
Female winner: Julia Zalenski (Mars, Pa.), 32:29
Male winner: Reese Vannerson (Sugar Land, Texas), 28:37
Female winner: Josie Williams (Littleton, Colo.), 31:54
Male winner: Ben Capozzi (Cranberry Township, Pa.), 30:34
Female winner: Hayden Withers (Cincinnati, Ohio), 32:49
Male winner: Nicolas Raffinengo (Boynton Beach, Fla.), 29:58
Note: Max Betts (SUI) posted the fastest time in this age group (28:58), but was not eligible for a national title.
1. Multisport Madness, 19,772 points
2. Get Fit Families, 15,517 points
3. Endorphin Fitness, 11,417 points
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).