COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — USA Triathlon today announced its 2017 Elite Triathletes of the Year presented by Garmin, a talented roster that includes several world and national champions. Selections were determined by the USA Triathlon Athlete Advisory Council.
Katie Zaferes (Santa Cruz, Calif.) was named the Women’s Olympic/ITU Triathlete of the Year after a standout 2017 ITU World Triathlon Series season. Zaferes earned four top-five finishes during the WTS regular season, including a silver in Yokohama, Japan, and a bronze in Edmonton, Alberta. She went on to place second at the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, in September, which placed her third in the overall WTS standings for 2017. Zaferes also teamed up with Kirsten Kasper (North Andover, Mass.), Ben Kanute (Phoenix, Ariz.) and Matt McElroy (Huntington Beach, Calif.) to claim silver at the ITU Mixed Relay World Championships in Hamburg, Germany, in July.
Kevin McDowell (Phoenix, Ariz.) was named Men’s Olympic/ITU Triathlete of the Year. McDowell earned two late-season ITU Triathlon World Cup podiums with a silver in Huelva, Spain, in September, and a bronze in Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida, in October. His performance in Sarasota also earned him the USA Triathlon Elite National Championship title.
“It’s very gratifying to receive this honor this year after a challenging 2016 season,” McDowell said. “I’m honored and grateful for the support I’ve received from USA Triathlon, my coaches, sponsors and teammates.”
The Elite Non-Drafting Triathlete of the Year titles were awarded to Heather Jackson (Bend, Ore.), who earns the honor for the second consecutive year, and Kanute. Jackson had a strong season of IRONMAN 70.3 racing, claiming victories at Peru, Chattanooga, Calgary and Steelhead. She closed her season with a fourth-place finish as the top American at the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona, Hawaii.
Kanute raced on the draft-legal ITU circuit in addition to non-drafting events, but his biggest achievements were on the non-drafting side. Kanute took the overall win at the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon in September, and followed that performance with an exceptional second-place finish behind Spain’s Javier Gomez at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship. Kanute ended the season with a bang, claiming a close victory at the Island House Triathlon in the Bahamas.
Grace Norman (Jamestown, Ohio, PTS5) was named Women’s Elite Paratriathlete of the Year for the second year in a row. Norman had a stellar 2017 that saw her defend her world title, outracing Great Britain’s Lauren Steadman by just four seconds. Norman, also claimed gold medals at ITU World Paratriathlon Edmonton and the Sarasota CAMTRI Paratriathlon American Championships.
“I am so honored to be selected for Athlete of the Year,” Norman said. “2017 was a challenging year, but this honor made it all worth it.”
Chris Hammer (Elkins, W.V., PTS5) earned the Men’s Elite Paratriathlete of the Year title. Hammer returned to the podium with a bronze at the ITU Paratriathlon World Championships after placing fourth at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. He also won gold at the first-ever ITU World Paratriathlon Series event in Gold Coast, Australia, and won his division at the USA Paratriathlon National Championships.
Ahalya Lettenberger (Glen Ellyn, Ill., PTWC) and Howie Sanborn (Denver, Colo., PTWC) were named Paratriathlon Development Athletes of the Year. Lettenberger was the runner-up in the women’s PTWC class at the USA Paratriathlon National Championships, placed fourth at the ITU Paratriathlon World Championships and earned her first ITU Paratriathlon World Cup medal with a gold in Sarasota-Bradenton.
Sanborn’s 2017 saw him earn a men’s PTWC national title, a World Cup gold in Magog, and a bronze at the Sarasota CAMTRI Paratriathlon American Championships.
Alissa Doehla (Tryon, N.C.) and Tony Smoragiewicz (Rapid City, S.D.) earned Rookie of the Year honors. Doehla, a recipient of the 2017 Jesse Thomas Scholarship for first-year professional triathletes, captured four consecutive IRONMAN 70.3 podiums at Eagleman, Racine, Steelhead and Augusta.
“When I started my triathlon journey two years ago, I never anticipated winning this award,” Doehla said. “This will motivate me as I continue to strive for faster.”
Smoragiewicz was the runner-up at both the USA Triathlon U23 National Championships (held as part of the West Des Moines CAMTRI Sprint Triathlon American Cup) and the USA Triathlon Elite National Championships (held as part of the Sarasota-Bradenton ITU Triathlon World Cup). He was also top U.S. man at the ITU U23 World Championships in Rotterdam, taking 13th.
Tamara Gorman (Rapid City, S.D.) was named the Women’s Under-23 Triathlete of the Year. Gorman’s outstanding 2017 season included a victory at the ITU U23 World Championships in Rotterdam, a runner-up finish at the USA Triathlon U23 National Championships, and a silver-medal performance at the Salinas ITU Triathlon World Cup.
Eli Hemming (Kiowa, Colo.) earned Men’s U23 Triathlete of the Year honors for the second year in a row. His 2017 accomplishments included a U23 national title, a seventh-place finish at the Cagliari ITU Triathlon World Cup and a win in the elite men’s field at the Hamilton CAMTRI Sprint Triathlon American Cup.
The Elite Off-Road Triathletes of the Year, Suzie Snyder (Averill Park, N.Y.) and Josiah Middaugh (Vail, Colo.), both earned the honor for the second consecutive year. Snyder had a standout season, placing second in the XTERRA Pan American Tour, earning the win at XTERRA Costa Rica and taking second at XTERRA Beaver Creek. Middaugh’s season included the XTERRA Pan American Tour title, a first-place finish at XTERRA Mexico and a second-place finish at the XTERRA Pan American Championship, which earned him the XTERRA USA Championship title.
The 2017 USA Triathlon Elite Triathlete of the Year selections are as follows:
Men’s Olympic/ITU Triathlete of the Year: Katie Zaferes (Santa Cruz, Calif.)
Women’s Olympic/ITU Triathlete of the Year: Kevin McDowell (Phoenix, Ariz.)
Men’s Elite Non-Drafting Triathlete of the Year: Ben Kanute (Phoenix, Ariz.)
Women’s Elite Non-Drafting Triathlete of the Year: Heather Jackson (Bend, Ore.)
Men’s Elite Paratriathlete of the Year: Chris Hammer (Elkins, W.V.)
Women’s Elite Paratriathlete of the Year: Grace Norman (Jamestown, Ohio)
Men’s Paratriathlon Development Athlete of the Year: Howie Sanborn (Denver, Colo.)
Women’s Paratriathlon Development Athlete of the Year: Ahalya Lettenberger (Glen Ellyn, Ill.)
Men’s Rookie of the Year: Tony Smoragiewicz (Rapid City, S.D.)
Women’s Rookie of the Year: Alissa Doehla (Tryon, N.C.)
Men’s U23 Triathlete of the Year: Eli Hemming (Kiowa, Colo.)
Women’s U23 Triathlete of the Year: Tamara Gorman (Rapid City, S.D.)
Men’s Off-Road Triathlete of the Year: Josiah Middaugh (Vail, Colo.)
Women’s Off-Road Triathlete of the Year: Suzie Snyder (Averill Park, N.Y.),
Note: Due to a lack of compelling results, no votes were cast by Athlete Advisory Committee (AAC) members in the men’s and women’s Elite Duathlon category. As a result, there will not be a recipient of either award in 2017.
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 races 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).