PLEASANT PRAIRIE, Wis. – Nine of the United States’ top paratriathletes earned wins Sunday in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, at the USA Paratriathlon National Championships. Kendall Gretsch (Madison, Wis.) and Allan Armstrong (Colorado Springs, Colo.) became back-to-back champions, as they each successfully defended their titles from 2017.
The race was held in conjunction with the Pleasant Prairie Triathlon at Lake Andrea for the second consecutive year. Paratriathletes covered a sprint-distance course featuring a 750-meter swim, 20-kilometer bike and 5-kilometer run.
Gretsch was the first athlete across the line, winning the women’s PTWC category with a time of 1 hour, 8 minutes, 20 seconds. With the victory, Gretsch remains undefeated in her paratriathlon career. She took time away from the sport last year to compete in Nordic skiing at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, where she earned two gold medals.
Ahalya Lettenberger (Glen Ellyn, Ill.) was close behind Gretsch in 1:11:12, earning her second consecutive national silver medal in the women’s PTWC class.
"It was a great race. Ahalya and I were together for most of it, so that’s always fun. We went back and forth a couple times on the bike,” Gretsch said. “It’s awesome to have someone that’s so close to you when you’re racing, because it pushes you instead of just being a race where you come out and do your own thing.”
The real finish-line drama came in the men’s PTWC division, as Eric Fife (Milwaukee, Wis.) and defending champion Howie Sanborn (Denver, Colo.) were neck-in-neck down the chute. Fife would ultimately claim the title in 1:14:18, while Sanborn finished just one second later. Zach Young (Cape Girardeau, Mo.) completed the men’s PTWC podium in third.
Armstrong led the way in the men’s PTS2 division for the second consecutive year, crossing the line in 1:12:23. Taking silver for the PTS2 men was Cahin Perez (Christiana, Tenn.) in 1:44:28.
After taking most of the 2017 season off to give birth to her second child, Melissa Stockwell (Chicago, Ill.) showed she is back in top form with a win in the women’s PTS2 division. The 2016 Paralympic bronze medalist and three-time ITU world champion covered the course in 1:27:41.
In the men’s PTS4 division, 2009 and 2011 national champion Joel Rosinbum (Austin, Texas) returned to the top of the podium. He brought home the win with a time of 1:09:22, more than two minutes faster than his silver-medal performance in 2017.
Andre Cilliers (Washington, D.C.) and Craig Vogtsberger (Aurora, Colo.) took second and third in the men’s PTS4 class, recording times of 1:11:07 and 1:14:23, respectively.
“This is a really special event in that you have athletes of all calibers. Athletes who are coming up in the pipeline have a chance to compete with athletes at the top,” Rosinbum said. There are a lot of athletes who are looking toward the Paris 2024 and LA 2028 Paralympic Games, and I think it’s really great to see their development as an elite athlete myself.”
The women’s PTS4 division saw a first-time national champion, as Kelly Elmlinger (San Antonio, Texas) brought home the win in in 1:22:31. Elmlinger, who was racing in only her second paratriathlon since becoming an amputee, outraced her closest competitor by more than 10 minutes.
“It’s been four-and-a-half years since I’ve been an adaptive athlete, because I did limb salvage before I did amputation,” Elmlinger said. “I’m in the military, and the very first thing I told our adaptive sports person was that I wanted to do triathlon. I didn’t have the ability to run when I was doing limb salvage, but it was still in the back of my head — of course, I had a lot of doubts. I elected to cut my leg off a year-and-a-half ago, and it was a bumpy road up until last October when I had my last revision. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for four-and-a-half years, just to go and experience (Nationals) and see how it goes. Of course, we all dream to be a champion, but my goal was to get here. To be a national champion is icing on the cake.”
Kelly Worrell (Cherry Hill, N.J.) was the women’s PTS4 runner-up in 1:32:59, while Andrea Walton (Washington, D.C.) took third in 1:34:36.
Claiming the title for the PTS5 men was Dan St. Pierre (Frankfort, Ill.) in 1:21:17, and he was followed by Peter Schmitz (Wauconda, Ill.) in 1:23:26.
In the women's PTVI division, Eliza Cooper (New York, N.Y.) claimed the win in 1:23:38. The runner-up for PTVI women was Ashley Eisenmenger (Tolono, Ill.), who crossed the line in 1:30:19 to edge third-place-finisher Rachel Weeks (Bradenton, Fla.) by just 28 seconds.
John Chan (Staten Island, N.Y.) was the men's PTVI champion with a time of 1:22:31. Brandon Adame (Houston, Texas) and Alberto Guzman (Chicago, Ill.) were second and third for the PTVI men, recording times of 1:24:01 and 1:28:32, respectively.
More than 50 paratriathletes in total competed Sunday as part of either the National Championship race or the Physically Challenged Open division. Of those athletes, 25 were active-duty or retired U.S. military service members.
The top-performing athletes in Sunday’s race who were not already members of the USA Paratriathlon National Team will be considered for the USA Paratriathlon Development Team Program, designed to identify and develop athletic potential leading toward the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. For more information about the USA Paratriathlon Development Team Program, click here.
The elite paratriathlon season continues with a World Paratriathlon Series stop in Iseo-Franciacorta, Italy, on June 30.
2018 USA Paratriathlon National Championships
750m swim, 20k bike, 5k run
Male PTVI: John Chan (Staten Island, N.Y.), 1:22:31
Female PTVI: Eliza Cooper (New York, N.Y.), 1:23:38
Male PTWC: Eric Fife (Milwaukee, Wis.), 1:14:18
Female PTWC: Kendall Gretsch (Madison, Wis.), 1:08:20
Male PTS2: Allan Armstrong (Colorado Springs, Colo.), 1:11:12
Female PTS2: Melissa Stockwell (Chicago, Ill.), 1:27:41
Male PTS4: Joel Rosinbum (Austin, Texas), 1:09:22
Female PTS4: Kelly Elmlinger (San Antonio, Texas), 1:22:31
Male PTS5: Dan St. Pierre (Frankfort, Ill.), 1:21:17
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).