TEMPE, Arizona — Drew Shellenberger, a junior at Southport High School in Indianapolis, Indiana, grabbed the win Friday at the USA Triathlon High School National Championships, marking his third consecutive victory at the event. Cassidy Hickey (Parker, Colo., unattached) was victorious in the girls’ race, earning redemption after a second-place finish in 2018.
The fourth annual event was held at Tempe Beach Park and showcased nearly 150 high school athletes from across the country. The course featured a 750-meter swim in Tempe Town Lake, a non-drafting 21-kilometer bike on Rio Salado Parkway and surrounding roads, and a 5.1k run along the Tempe Town Lake Path.
Shellenberger led the boys’ race from start to finish. He covered the swim in 10 minutes, 57 seconds, exiting the water just ahead of Chris Pukszta (Irvine, Calif., Nova/Multisports Orange County). On the bike, Shellenberger was all alone, steadily building a gap on the rest of the field. By the time he hit the second transition, the two-time defending champion was more than two minutes ahead of his closest competitor.
He wouldn’t let up on the run, widening his gap even further over the 5.1k course. Behind him though, a battle was brewing between Drew Kroeker (Colorado Springs, Colo., unattached), Andrew Flynn (Wilmette, Ill., Sammy’s Fox Valley Region Club) and Carter Brand (Castle Pines, Colo., eNRG Performance) for the remaining podium spots.
Shellenberger ultimately crossed the line with a time of 1:01:33, a solid two-and-a-half minutes ahead of the runner-up. Kroeker took second in 1:04:05, and Flynn rounded out the podium in 1:04:21.
“This race was definitely my hardest High School Nationals by far,” Shellenberger said. “There wasn’t much of a flat section on the roads — it was either up or down, so you couldn’t really get into a rhythm on the bike. The run is what I was most proud of. That was a tough course. I felt like I did a really good job holding my own, especially with the caliber of guys here who are all really good runners.”
Two paratriathletes competed in the high school boys’ race. Owen Cravens (Algonquin, Ill., Sammy’s Fox Valley Region Club), who is visually impaired and guided by Eric Palmquist, finished in 1:12:22. Jack O’Neil (Colorado Springs, Colo., Dare2Tri Paratriathlon Club), who is an amputee, crossed the line in 1:30:31. Both athletes made their elite paratriathlon debuts in March, and they plan to race more often on the International Triathlon Union (ITU) circuit throughout the season.
“We’re not just out here to finish the race — we’re out here to be competitors, but also to represent something bigger than ourselves,” O’Neil said. “We’re racing for the overall picture of disables athletes, and disabled people in general. I love these races in addition to the ITU international races, because it’s fun to still be a high schooler sometimes.”
In the girls’ race, Rebecca Rivers (Elgin, Texas, unattached) was out of the water first in 11:16. She had nearly 45 seconds on her closest competitor, Tessa Brennan (Aurora, Ill., Sammy’s Fox Valley Region Club), and another 15 seconds on Madeleine Katz (S. Hamilton, Mass., Nor’Easter Triathlon) at the swim exit.
After just missing the lead pack on the swim, Hickey was 1:20 down on Rivers coming out of the water — a significant gap to make up for most athletes, but Hickey made closing the gap look easy. By the 8k mark on the bike, she was already in the lead — and at the second transition, she had almost two minutes on the rest of the field.
Kennedy Calcagno (Elmhurst, Ill., Sammy’s Fox Valley Region Club), Freya McKinley (The Woodlands, Texas, unattached), and Camille Buchanan (Barlett, Ill., Sammy’s Fox Valley Region Club) came out of transition on each other’s heels, all looking to make up ground on Hickey.
While Calcagno ran a 20:59 in the 5.1k to Hickey’s 21:15, it wasn’t enough to bridge the gap. Hickey would take the tape with a time of 1:10:15. Calcagno grabbed the runner-up spot in 1:12:13, and McKinley ran her way to third place in 1:12:27.
For Hickey, the win was redemption after a bittersweet performance at the 2018 High School National Championships. Last year, she was dominant during the race and crossed the line first, but drafting penalties cost her the top spot and moved her into the runner-up position. In addition, Hickey battled injuries earlier this season and said she didn’t feel like she was in top form until today’s race.
“They penalized me (last year), I learned from it and I was able to come back stronger,” Hickey said. “Coming off an injury was hard, but I’m glad that I finally feel like myself again while I’m racing. I think this was a great venue. I really liked the bike course — I think it really challenged us and proved who really was the best out there today.”
In the club standings, region-based clubs and independent (high school-based) clubs were recognized separately for the first time. Sammy’s Fox Valley Region Club dominated the boys’, girls’ and overall region-based club standings, continuing an undefeated streak dating back to the first High School National Championships in 2016.
St. Xavier High School, based in Cincinnati, Ohio, earned the men’s independent club victory. There were not enough girls’ independent club athletes to constitute a club score; therefore, no girls’ independent club award was presented, and the St. Xavier boys’ team was given the overall independent club award.
For more information about the USA Triathlon High School National Championships, visit usatriathlon.org/hs2019. To learn more about the USA Triathlon High School Program, visit usatriathlon.org/hsprogram.
2019 USA Triathlon High School National Championships
750m swim, 21k bike, 5.1k run | Complete Results
High School Boys
1. Drew Shellenberger (Indianapolis, Ind., Southport Cardinals), 1:01:33
2. Drew Kroeker (Colorado Springs, Colo., unattached), 1:04:05
3. Andrew Flynn (Wilmette, Ill., Sammy’s Fox Valley Region Club), 1:04:21
4. Jake Baugher (Charlotte, N.C., Carolina Varsity Tri Club), 1:04:31
5. Jack DeWeerdt (Hoffman Estates, Ill., Sammy’s Fox Valley Region Club), 1:04:51
High School Girls
1. Cassidy Hickey (Parker, Colo., unattached), 1:10:15
2. Kennedy Calcagno (Elmhurst, Ill., Sammy’s Fox Valley Region Club), 1:12:13
3. Freya McKinley (The Woodlands, Texas, unattached), 1:12:27
4. Camille Buchanan (Bartlett, Ill., Sammy’s Fox Valley Region Club), 1:12:45
5. Lucy Westlake (Naperville, Ill., Sammy’s Fox Valley Region Club), 1:13:08
Boys’ Paratriathlon Open
1. Owen Cravens (Algonquin, Ill., Sammy’s Fox Valley Region Club) and guide Eric Palmquist, 1:12:22
2. Jack O’Neil (Colorado Springs, Colo., Dare2Tri Paratriathlon Club), 1:30:31
Boys’ Region-Based Club
1. Sammy’s Fox Valley Region Club, 320 points
2. E3 High School Team, 156
Girls’ Region-Based Club
1. Sammy’s Fox Valley Region Club, 330 points
2. MC Elite, 221
3. E3 High School Team, 83
Overall Region-Based Club
1. Sammy’s Fox Valley Region Club, 650 points
2. E3 High School Team, 239
Boys’/Overall Independent Club
1. St. Xavier High School, 209 points
2. Point Arena High School Triathlon Team, 139
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).