SARASOTA, Fla. — Former Georgetown University track and cross-country teammates Renée Tomlin and Kirsten Kasper earned gold and silver, respectively, Saturday afternoon at the Sarasota-Bradenton ITU Triathlon World Cup. The event was part of the weekend-long Sarasota-Bradenton Triathlon Festival at Nathan Benderson Park, which also features age-group, elite paratriathlon and elite mixed relay competition.
The race was switched from a triathlon (swim-bike-run) to a duathlon (run-bike-run) after heightened algae levels in the lake due to recent weather conditions forced a cancellation of the swim leg. Elite athletes instead covered a 2.5-kilometer run, followed by an 18.3-kilometer bike and another 5-kilometer run.
Tomlin (Ocean City, N.J.), who had not raced since mid-June due to injury, came back to the ITU circuit with a vengeance to take the win. Nearly the entire field stayed together for the first 2.5k run, leading to a large pack of nearly 30 women forming on the bike.
On the second run, Tomlin positioned herself out front and ran comfortably as the hot and humid conditions began to thin out the group. The final 100 meters would come down to an all-out sprint, and Tomlin used her signature finishing speed to break the tape with a total time of 54 minutes, 34 seconds. The performance marked her fourth career ITU World Cup victory.
“I had no idea where I was at, to be honest,” Tomlin said. “I’ve made a ton of changes, so I really had no idea. I just wanted to come out and compete and see what the day brought. I actually felt really comfortable the whole race, so it was really just staying composed and waiting until the last bit to turn it on. I know (the duathlon) played to some of my strengths, but I know there will be bigger challenges.”
Kasper (North Andover, Mass.) was just a step behind her, taking silver in 54:35. Kasper was less than a second separated from the Czech Republic’s Vendula Frintova, who took bronze with the same official time of 54:35.
Tomlin and Kasper were college teammates on the women’s track and cross-country teams at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Both athletes were recruited to triathlon through USA Triathlon’s Collegiate Recruitment Program (CRP), which fast-tracks the talent transfer of collegiate runners and swimmers into elite triathlon competition.
“It’s really exciting to finish on the podium with Renée Tomlin,” Kasper said. “We run with each other so much throughout the year that it’s kind of second nature to us, and I knew she had a strong kick coming from an 800-meter background. I just knew I had to hang with her and give my all to that line.”
The Sarasota-Bradenton ITU Triathlon World Cup doubled as the USA Triathlon Elite National Championships, with the top-three U.S. finishers comprising the Nationals podium. Tomlin was crowned national champion, and Kasper earned the silver medal. Fellow CRP athlete Taylor Spivey (Redondo Beach, Calif.), who placed seventh overall in 54:45, earned the bronze.
In the men’s ITU World Cup, Morgan Pearson (Boulder, Colo.) led the way for the U.S. with a fourth-place finish. That performance is a career-best for the first-year elite, who was recruited to triathlon through the CRP just last summer.
Claiming the gold medal was France’s Vincent Luis, who crossed the line with a dominant time of 48:18. Belgium’s Jelle Geens and Portugal’s Joao Pereira collected silver and bronze respectively in a sprint finish, both recording times of 48:25.
As in the women’s race, nearly the entire field stayed together for the first 2.5k run. While a few small groups tried for breakaways on the bike, no one was able to gain a clear advantage. A massive group got off the bikes all at once, leaving the podiums to be claimed on the final run.
Pearson was at the back of the pack leaving the second transition, but ran a race-leading 14:34 5k to move up to fourth by the end of the race. His total time of 48:27 was just two seconds off the podium, and that performance earned him the USA Triathlon elite national title as the top U.S. finisher.
“I made mistakes that cost me — I got off the bike in last, so that shows that I’m new and I need to keep working,” Pearson said. “This is my first year in the sport, and biking in a pack is hard to learn. These guys have been doing it for years, and it’s a really key part of the race. I’m not super happy with how I biked, but I definitely was solid for the first two laps. I know I have a long way to go and this year has been up and down, but I’m hungry, and I believe in myself more than I did when I started this year.”
Jason West (Boulder, Colo.) placed sixth overall in 48:33, earning the national silver medal in the process. William Huffman (Colleyville, Texas) crossed the line eighth in 48:40 to round out the U.S. Nationals podium.
Racing action continues tomorrow at Nathan Benderson Park, with an ITU Paratriathlon World Cup on tap for 8 a.m. ET and the CAMTRI Mixed Relay American Championships set for 1 p.m. ET.
For more information about the Sarasota-Bradenton Triathlon Festival, visit usatriathlon.org/sbtrifest2018.
Sarasota-Bradenton ITU Triathlon World Cup
2.5k run, 18.3k bike, 5k run
Elite Women — Complete Results
1. Renée Tomlin (Ocean City, N.J.), 54:34
2. Kirsten Kasper (North Andover, Mass.), 54:35
3. Vendula Frintova (CZE), 54:35
1. Renée Tomlin (Ocean City, N.J.), 54:34 — USA Triathlon Elite National Champion
2. Kirsten Kasper (North Andover, Mass.), 54:35 — USA Triathlon Elite National Championships Silver Medalist
3. Taylor Spivey (Redondo Beach, Calif.), 54:45 — USA Triathlon Elite National Championships Bronze Medalist
29. Sarah Alexander (Shaker Heights, Ohio), 56:49
41. Tamara Gorman (Rapid City, S.D.), 58:25
Elite Men — Complete Results
1. Vincent Luis (FRA), 48:18
2. Jelle Geens (BEL), 48:25
3. Joao Pereira (POR), 48:25
4. Morgan Pearson (Boulder, Colo.), 48:27 — USA Triathlon Elite National Champion
6. Jason West (Boulder, Colo.), 48:33 — USA Triathlon Elite National Championships Silver Medalist
8. William Huffman (Colleyville, Texas), 48:40 — USA Triathlon Elite National Championships Bronze Medalist
16. Eli Hemming (Kiowa, Colo.), 49:08
18. Tony Smoragiewicz (Rapid City, S.D.), 49:11
44. Kevin McDowell (Phoenix, Ariz.), 51:08
46. Seth Rider (Germantown, Tenn.), 51:14
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 at the grassroots level with athletes, coaches, and race directors — as well as the USA Triathlon Foundation — 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).