CLEVELAND — A weekend of racing at the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships concluded Sunday at Cleveland’s Edgewater Park, with thousands of athletes racing for national titles on a sprint-distance duathlon (run-bike-run) course.
Sunday’s race course was initially scheduled to be a sprint-distance triathlon covering a 750-meter swim, 20-kilometer bike and 5-kilometer run. USA Triathlon, along with the Coast Guard, Sunday morning made the joint decision to cancel the swim due to strong currents in Lake Erie. The race was changed to a duathlon covering a 2.72k run, 20k bike and 2.72k run.
Men’s champion Justin Lippert (Middletown, N.J.), 22, successfully completed the Age Group Nationals sweep, winning the overall title Sunday by just four seconds over 16-year-old Drew Shellenberger (Indianapolis, Ind.). Lippert also claimed the victory in Saturday’s Olympic-distance race, which covered a 1,500m swim, 40k bike and 10k run.
Gina Sereno (Madison, Wis.), 23, was the women’s overall winner of Sunday’s race, earning the title of national champion for the first time.
A time-trial start made for an exciting finish line, as athletes had to wait and see how those who started behind them would fare. While Shellenberger arrived at the finish line ahead of Lippert, the eventual champion recorded a time of 46 minutes, 50 seconds, that was four seconds faster than Shellenberger. Rounding out the overall podium was 29-year-old Todd Buckingham (Big Rapids, Mich.), in 47:30.
“It feels great. That’s what I came here for. I didn’t come here for one (win), I came here for two,” Lippert said. “Both days were extremely hard. Everyone here is really competitive. It feels good to come out here and do what I know I’m capable of.”
There was similar finish-line drama in the women’s race, as the overall runner-up Cassidy Hickey (Parker, Colo.), 15, came across the line ahead of eventual champion Sereno. Sereno’s time of 53:05 gave her a 32-second margin of victory over Hickey.
Sereno is a relative newbie to multisport. A recent graduate of the University of Michigan, she ran NCAA Division I cross-country and track for the Wolverines. She is currently training with USA Triathlon’s Collegiate Recruitment Program.
Stephanie Knast, 28, of Philadelphia, took third overall in the women's race with a time of 53:50.
In fourth place overall for women, and taking first in the women's 35-39 age group, was 39-year-old Kirsten Sass (McKenzie, Tenn.). Sass swept the sprint and Olympic-distance overall titles at Age Group Nationals last year, and claimed the overall sprint-distance victory in 2016.
Sass, Hickey and men’s overall third-place finisher Buckingham are all accomplished duathletes. Sass reached the podium in all three races at April’s USA Triathlon Duathlon National Championships in Greenville, South Carolina, while Hickey and Buckingham each collected overall national titles there.
“I know it was a hard call by management to cancel the swim, but it was the right call,” Sass said. “Luckily I’m pretty easy-going, so I just take things as they come. You always have to expect the unexpected. You just have to do the best you can with what you’ve got.”
Vachee Loughran (Glenview, Ill.) earned the men’s Masters title with a time of 49:54. Top honors for Masters women went to Ginger Reiner (Lincoln, Mass.) in 55:21, and claiming the Grand Masters victory was Ron Gierut (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) in 54:30.
Kelly Dippold (Olathe, Kan.), who was Saturday’s Olympic-distance Grand Masters winner, returned to the top of the Grand Masters podium on Sunday with a time of 59:08. Dippold also swept the Grand Masters category for both distances in 2017, and was the Masters sprint champion in 2016.
In total, 30 age-group national champions were crowned on Sunday, with athletes ranging in age from 15 to 88. Five athletes defended their titles from 2017: Sass (F35-39), Celia Dubey (Tarpon Springs, Fla., F45-49), Dippold (F55-59), Lois Leon (Miami, Fla., F75-79) and Wayne Fong (Chatsworth, Calif., F85+). Sass, Dippold and Leon also won their age groups in 2016.
The top-eight finishers in each age group and gender earned the opportunity to represent Team USA next year in the draft-legal ITU Triathlon Age Group Sprint World Championships, which will be held in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Athletes will have one additional opportunity to qualify for the sprint-distance world championships at the USA Triathlon Age Group Draft-Legal Sprint National Championships, set for Oct. 13 in Sarasota, Florida. For more information about qualifying for Team USA, visit usatriathlon.org/teamusa.
Full recaps, photo galleries and archived live stream video from the two days of racing at Age Group Nationals are available at usatriathlon.org/agnc2018.
Age Group Nationals will return to Cleveland in 2019, with races taking place Aug. 10-11. Registration for the sprint-distance race, which is not qualification-based, is now open. Registration for the Olympic-distance race will open to qualified athletes in the coming weeks, with the qualifying window to remain open until approximately eight days before the 2019 event.
2018 USA Triathlon Sprint National Championships
2.72k swim, 20k bike, 2.72k run
Sprint National Champions — Complete Results
Overall Female: Gina Sereno (Madison, Wis.), 53:06
Overall Male: Justin Lippert (Middletown, N.J.), 46:50
Masters Female: Ginger Reiner (Lincoln, Mass.), 55:21
Masters Male: Vachee Loughran (Glenview, Ill.), 49:54
Grand Masters Female: Kelly Dippold (Olathe, Kan.), 59:08
Grand Masters Male: Ron Gierut (Cedar Rapids, Iowa), 54:30
F15-19: Cassidy Hickey (Parker, Colo.), 53:37
M15-19: Drew Shellenberger (Indianapolis, Ind.), 46:54
F20-24: Gina Sereno (Madison, Wis.), 53:06
M20-24: Justin Lippert (Middletown, N.J.), 46:50
F25-29: Stephanie Knast (Philadelphia, Pa.), 53:50
M25-29: Todd Buckingham (Big Rapids, Mich.), 47:30
F30-34: Desiree Terella (Fairview, Pa.), 55:38
M30-34: Andrew Hall (Holladay, Utah), 49:57
F35-39: Kirsten Sass (McKenzie, Tenn.), 54:10
M35-39: Adam Webber (Denver, Pa.), 48:44
F40-44: Ginger Reiner (Lincoln, Mass.), 55:21
M40-44: Jonathan Mason (Fort Collins, Colo.), 51:07
F45-49: Celia Dubey (Tarpon Springs, Fla.), 57:28
M45-49: Vachee Loughran (Glenview, Ill.), 49:54
F50-54: Stephanie Popelar (Elizabeth, Colo.), 56:49
M50-54: Robert Skaggs (Solana Beach, Calif.), 51:02
F55-59: Kelly Dippold (Olathe, Kan.), 59:08
M55-59: Clint Dowd (Goffstown, N.H.), 53:00
F60-64: Carol Gephart (Hamilton, Mich.), 1:03:24
M60-64: Ron Gierut (Cedar Rapids, Iowa), 54:30
F65-69: Carol Hassell (West Palm Beach, Fla.), 1:06:17
M65-69: Gregory Pautsch (Hayward, Wis.), 58:50
F70-74: Kathy Calabretta (Ludington, Mich.), 1:10:59
M70-74: Terry Habecker (Ithaca, N.Y.), 1:03:37
F75-79: Lois Leon (Miami, Fla.), 1:22:40
M75-79: Kent Blair (Corrales, N.M.), 1:06:09
F80-84: Sharon Roggenbuck (Hillsborough, N.C.), 1:34:15
M80-84: Donald Ardell (Gulfport, Fla.), 1:17:37
F85+: Madonna Buder (Spokane, Wash.), 1:48:06
M85+: Wayne Fong (Chatsworth, Calif.), 1:58:09
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).