CLEVELAND, Ohio — Thousands of the nation’s top amateur triathletes competed for national titles on Saturday as the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships got underway at Cleveland’s Edgewater Park. Justin Lippert, 22, and Gabrielle Bunten, 26, claimed the overall men’s and women’s titles respectively.
Age Group Nationals is USA Triathlon’s largest and longest-running National Championships event. This year’s participation is the second-highest in the event’s 35-year history, with more than 5,400 athletes registered to compete over two days. Cleveland is hosting for the first time since 1992, and will welcome the event back to Edgewater Park in 2019.
Saturday’s course featured a 1,500-meter swim in Lake Erie, 40-kilometer bike through the streets of downtown Cleveland and a 10-kilometer run ending at USA Triathlon’s iconic red-carpet finish chute within Edgewater Park.
The men’s overall podium was a showcase of up-and-coming talent, as all three top finishers came from the 20-24 age group. Lippert (Middletown, N.J.), claimed the men’s overall title with a time of 1 hour, 59 minutes, 29 seconds. Matthew Murray (Pearland, Texas), 20, was close behind in 2:00:11, and Nick Noone, 24, took third in 2:00:45.
“I just went full send on the bike,” Lippert said. “My phrase for the day was, ‘Are you going full send right now?’ So, every 5-10 minutes, I’d do that mental check — ‘Are you going full send? No? Well, let’s go.’”
In the women’s race, Bunten (Forest Lake, Minn.) claimed top honors with a time of 2:13:39. Overall runner-up Laura McDonald (Castle Rock, Colo.), 36, and third-place finisher Kim Webster (Framingham, Mass.), 42, both started in earlier waves than Bunten. After clocking times of 2:14:50 and 2:15:21, respectively, they waited to see if top finishers in the later waves would overtake them — and only Bunten did so.
“I had no expectations coming in. I just wanted to have fun and have a clean race. All these girls out here are wicked fast. Of course, I hoped I’d do well — but I never try to put an expectation on placing, because you never know if someone else is going to show up and do amazing,” Bunten said. “The crowd support was so fun on this course. Everywhere you looked, there was always someone cheering for you.”
McDonald was quick to praise her competitors, especially fellow women’s 35-39 competitor Kirsten Sass (McKenzie, Tenn.). Sass, an icon in the USA Triathlon age-group community, swept the women’s Olympic- and sprint-distance overall national titles last year and won the overall sprint-distance title in 2016. Today, she placed second in her age group and fifth overall with a time of 2:16:03.
“I can’t believe it. I was like, someday, someday, (I’ll beat her). She’s such an inspiration to all of us,” McDonald said. “She’s so down-to-earth and nice. It was always in the back of my head that someday, I’m going to beat her. I can’t believe I did.”
Webster’s standout performance also earned her the women’s Masters national titles, while Scott Erba (Winona Lake, Ind.) was crowned men’s Masters champion in 2:07:07. Women’s Grand Masters honors went to Kelly Dippold (Olathe, Kan.) for the second consecutive year in 2:22:43. Tony Schiller (Eden Prairie, Minn.) earned the men’s Grand Masters title in 2:13:44.
“It felt really good to win the Grand Masters, but it took a full effort,” Schiller said. “When it comes to Age Group National Championships, I don’t think there’s a single sport that holds a candle to this organization. The guys in the 55-59 age group that I raced last year, they’re all studs and they’re crushing. And then I go up to the 60-64s, and the fastest guys in the U.S. and some of the fastest guys in the world are here. It’s really an honor to go up on that podium, and it’s always a thrill.”
In total, 27 national champions were crowned in their respective age groups on Saturday, seven of whom defended their titles from 2017.
The top-placing Ohio athlete was 30-year-old Vant Lammers, who grew up in Cleveland Heights and now lives in Madison, Wisconsin. Lammers placed second in the men’s 30-34 age group and was fifth overall with a time of 2:01:19. Lammers’ father Anthony is racing in Sunday’s Sprint National Championships.
“It was awesome to come to a familiar venue, my hometown, and have my friends and family out here,” Lammers said. “I had huge crowd support.”
The top 18 finishers in each age group and gender (rolling down to 25th place) earned the opportunity to represent Team USA at the 2019 ITU Age Group Triathlon World Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland.
The action continues Sunday with the Sprint National Championships, which cover a 750m swim, 20k bike and 5k run. The first wave is set to go off at 7 a.m. at Edgewater Park. More than 2,100 athletes are registered to compete, with about 380 having also raced in today’s championship.
Athletes, spectators and media can follow the action with the USA Triathlon Events App. The app features live athlete tracking, leaderboards, event schedules and more, and is free to download on iPhone and Android devices. For more information, visit usatriathlon.org/eventsapp.
A livestream is also available for tomorrow’s race at usatriathlon.org, and live updates will be posted throughout the day on Twitter @USATLive.
Visit usatriathlon.org/agnc2018 for complete event information for the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships.
2018 USA Triathlon Olympic-Distance National Championships
1,500m swim, 40k bike, 10k run
Olympic-Distance National Champions — Complete Results
Overall Female: Gabrielle Bunten (Forest Lake, Minn.), 2:13:39
Overall Male: Justin Lippert (Middletown, N.J.), 1:59:29
Masters Female: Kim Webster (Framingham, Mass.), 2:15:21
Masters Male: Scott Erba (Winona Lake, Ind.), 2:07:07
Grand Masters Female: Kelly Dippold (Olathe, Kan.), 2:22:43
Grand Masters Male: Tony Schiller (Eden Prairie, Minn.), 2:13:44
F17-19: Mathilde Bernard (Colorado Springs, Colo.), 2:30:31
M17-19: Shea Mielke (Bellingham, Wash.), 2:05:45
F20-24: Abbie Sullivan (Canandaigua, N.Y.), 2:18:16
M20-24: Justin Lippert (Middletown, N.J.), 1:59:29
F25-29: Gabrielle Bunten (Forest Lake, Minn.), 2:13:39
M25-29: Todd Buckingham (Big Rapids, Mich.), 2:01:53
F30-34: Tess Mattern (Fort Collins, Colo.), 2:16:39
M30-34: Jordan Bailey (Decatur, Ga.), 2:00:55
F35-39: Laura McDonald (Castle Rock, Colo.), 2:14:50
M35-39: Michael Phinney (Yardley, Pa.), 2:02:30
F40-44: Kim Webster (Framingham, Mass.), 2:15:21
M40-44: Tim Hola (Highlands Ranch, Colo.), 2:08:20
F45-49: Tracy Kellner (Mequon, Wis.), 2:20:39
M45-49: Scott Erba (Winona Lake, Ind.), 2:07:07
F50-54: Linda Robb (Juno Beach, Fla.), 2:22:34
M50-54: Stephen Bosic (Walthum, Mass.), 2:12:11
F55-59: Kelly Dippold (Olathe, Kan.), 2:22:43
M55-59: Lee Walther (Oklahoma City, Okla.), 2:10:01
F60-64: Carol Gephart (Hamilton, Mich.), 2:30:04
M60-64: Tony Schiller (Eden Prairie, Minn.), 2:13:44
F65-69: Judith Laney (Denver, Colo.), 2:41:44
M65-69: Jim Bruskewitz (Boulder, Colo.), 2:20:23
F70-74: Nancy Avitabile (Bethesda, Md.), 3:09:04
M70-74: Charles Perez (Englewood, Colo.), 2:33:34
F75-79: Sibyl Jacobson (New York, N.Y.), 3:37:46
M75-79: Robert Plant (Woodside, Calif.), 2:53:27
M80-84: Don Nelson (Tulsa, Okla.), 3:59:08
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).