CLEVELAND, Ohio — More than 2,000 of the nation’s top amateur triathletes competed for national titles on Saturday as the 2019 Toyota USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships got underway at Cleveland’s Edgewater Park. Justin Lippert, 23, defended his 2018 national championship, claiming the men’s overall title, while Rachel Mensch, 28, won the women’s overall title.
Age Group Nationals is USA Triathlon’s largest and longest-running National Championships event, celebrating its 36th running, and second consecutive year in Cleveland. Nearly 4,500 athletes were registered to compete over the weekend.
Saturday’s course featured a 750-meter swim in Lake Erie, 40-kilometer bike through the streets of downtown Cleveland and a 10-kilometer run ending at USA Triathlon’s iconic red-carpet finish chute within Edgewater Park. The swim course was shortened from the standard Olympic distance of 1,500m due to strong currents and wave conditions in Lake Erie.
Lippert (Middletown, N.J.) used a strong surge in the first half of the run — clocking a 4 minute, 57 second first mile — to overtake the race leaders and run away with another national title at Age Group Nationals in a time of 1 hour, 43 minutes, 51 seconds. Cleveland native Vant Lammers (Madison, Wis.), 31, placed second, with a time of 1:45:13, while Brian Reynolds (Richland, Mich.), 32, took third in 1:45:30
“I told my team before the race, I said, ‘there’s going to come a critical moment in the race when your body is yelling at you and saying we’re done, it’s too hard’ and I said that’s the critical moment in the race when you’ve got to dig deep and find something in yourself that you didn’t know was there and you’ll surprise yourself,” Lippert said. “You’ve got to shut your own demons up in your head. When I got off the bike, I said this is it.”
Lippert has had a dominant calendar year of racing at age group national championship races: he won the Olympic- and Sprint-distance national titles at 2018 Age Group Nationals; long course triathlon title at the 2018 Multisport National Championships in Miami and the Draft-Legal Sprint Duathlon national title this spring in Greenville, South Carolina, at the USA Triathlon Duathlon National Championships.
“The focus this year is on IRONMAN. I qualified for Kona, so that’s eight weeks from now. After my qualifying race, I had to take a couple weeks recovery, so the prep for this race wasn’t ideal, but we did the best with what we were working with,” said Lippert who also takes home the age 20-24 title. “I was still able to be somewhat confident coming in.”
For Lammers, Saturday’s race was a homecoming as the Cleveland Heights native raced in front of friends and family, landing on the podium and winning his 30-34 age group.
“I grew up in Cleveland Heights, so it’s like 15 minutes from the race site. I have a lot of family here. My parents are here. It’s awesome having a lot of support out here and being able to come through with a win in the age group, too,” Lammers said.
In the women’s race, Mensch (Madison, Wis.), made her move on the bike, averaging 24.61 miles per hour to storm into the lead. She averaged a 6:34 pace on the run to claim the women’s overall title with a time of 1:56:45. Dani Fischer (Greenfield, Ind.), 31, placed second in 1:56:57, while Grace Alexander (Atlanta, Ga.), 27, took third in 1:57:50.
“It’s awesome. A lot of the local series we do — we’ve got an awesome local series — but they’re pretty small events, so it’s not a ton of high-end competition, so it’s nice to come here and test myself against the top athletes in the U.S.” Mensch said.
In total, 28 national champions were crowned in their respective age groups on Saturday, eight of whom repeated as national age group champions.
Abbie Sullivan (Canandaigua, N.Y.), 24, defended her women’s 20-24 crown, Kelly Dippold (Olathe, Kan.), 57, repeated as 55-59 champion, Lee Walther (Oklahoma City, Okla.), 59, won the men’s 55-59 title, Robert Plant (Woodside, Calif.), 76, repeated as men’s 75-79 champion and Tony Schiller (Eden Prairie, Minn.), 61, defended his 60-64 title, winning Grand Masters honors.
Two athletes who won their age groups last year aged up to new categories this year: men’s 45-49 champion Scott Erba (Winona Lake, Ind.), 45, and women’s 55-59 champion Linda Robb (Juno Beach, Fla.), 55, who won the Grand Masters title.
Daniel Stubleski (Washington, Mich.), 43, and Ginger Reiner, (Lincoln, Mass.), 42, won the men's and women's Masters titles, respectively.
Locket Wood (Lyons, Colo.), 80, won the men’s 80-84 age group. A lifelong runner, Wood started triathlon when he was 70 — learning how to swim — and he’s been hooked ever since.
“It was the triple training (that got me hooked). I don’t ever get injured in training,” Wood said. “When I was running, from time to time you get injured. With the triathlon, you don’t seem to ever get injured.”
Athletes from all 50 states and Washington, D.C. competed Saturday, including Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who raced in the women’s 40-44 age group, clocking a time of 2:32:22.
She has participated in triathlon for several years, balancing training with her rigorous political schedule.
“For me, personal fitness is important to my mental health and to my happiness. What I tell folks is, you make it a priority and put the parts of your life that are most important first and you will always have time to train and compete,” said Sinema, who praised the spirited triathlon community. “The competitors today are all very genuine and kind and supportive of each other.”
Top finishers in each age group Saturday and Sunday will also earn the opportunity to represent USA Triathlon’s Team USA, which is a team of amateur age-group athletes who compete in the International Triathlon Union’s (ITU) world championships.
At Olympic-Distance Nationals, the top 18 finishers in each age group (rolling down to 30th place) will earn a spot on Team USA to compete at the 2020 ITU Age Group Triathlon World Championships in Edmonton, Alberta. Sprint-distance competitors must finish in the top eight in their age groups to secure a spot for the Sprint World Championships, which will feature a draft-legal format. Athletes may also qualify for the Sprint World Championships with a top finish at the USA Triathlon Draft-Legal Sprint National Championships in Tempe, Arizona, on Nov. 16.
For more information on Team USA, comprised of the nation’s top amateur multisport athletes who represent the U.S. at each ITU World Championship event, visit usatriathlon.org/teamusa.
The action continues Sunday with the Sprint National Championships, which cover a 750m swim, 20k bike and 5k run. The first wave is set to go off at 7 a.m. at Edgewater Park. More than 1,601 athletes are registered to compete, with about 800 having also raced in Saturday’s Olympic-distance championship.
Athletes, spectators and media can follow the action with the USA Triathlon Events App. The app features live athlete tracking, leaderboards, event schedules and more, and is free to download on iPhone and Android devices. For more information, visit usatriathlon.org/eventsapp.
Visit usatriathlon.org/agnc2019 for complete event information for the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships.
2019 Toyota USA Triathlon Olympic-Distance National Championships
750m swim, 40k bike, 10k run
Olympic-Distance National Champions — Complete Results
Overall Female: Rachel Mensch (Madison, Wis.) 1:56:45
Overall Male: Justin Lippert (Middletown, N.J.), 1:43:51
Masters Female: Ginger Reiner (Lincoln, Ma.) 1:59:49
Masters Male: Daniel Stubleski (Washington, Mich.) 1:46:23
Grand Masters Female: Linda Robb (Juno Beach, Fla.) 2:04:46
Grand Masters Male: Tony Schiller (Eden Prairie, Minn.) 1:58:41
F17-19: Samantha Joray (Buleson, Texas) 2:11:49
M17-19: Connor Reichel (Corydon, Ind.) 1:48:41
F20-24: Abbie Sullivan (Canandaigua, N.Y) 2:03:31
M20-24: Justin Lippert (Middletown, N.J.) 1:43:51
F25-29: Rachel Mensch (Madison, Wis.) 1:56:45
M25-29: Jeff Case (Fort Mill, S.C.) 1:45:57
F30-34: Dani Fischer (Greenfield, Ind.) 1:56:57
M30-34: Vant Lammers (Madison, Wis.) 1:45:13
F35-39: Sarah Bishop (Beavercreek, Ohio) 1:57:53
M35-39: Matias Palavecino (Alexandria, Va.) 1:47:23
F40-44: Ginger Reiner (Lincoln, Ma.) 1:59:49
M40-44: Daniel Stubleski (Washington, Mich.) 1:46:23
F45-49: Becky Youngberg (Eden Prairie, Minn.) 2:01:49
M45-49: Roger Thompson (Spokane, Wash.) 1:49:20
F50-54: Adrienne LeBlanc (Scottsdale, Ariz.) 2:01:17
M50-54: Scott Erba (Winona Lake, Ind.) 1:51:16
F55-59: Linda Robb (Juno Beach, Fla.) 2:04:46
M55-59: Lee Walther (Oklahoma City, Okla.) 1:52:24
F60-64: Robyn Williams (Loveland, Ohio) 2:09:40
M60-64: Tony Schiller (Eden Prairie, Minn.) 1:58:41
F65-69: Missy LeStrange (Visalia, Calif.) 2:27:29
M65-69: Gregory Taylor (Yankton, S.D.) 2:00:05
F70-74: Mary Hager (Randolph, N.J.) 2:45:15
M70-74: Tim Hughes (Lake Forest, Calif.) 2:18:38
F75-79: Marylynne Caruso (Fort Worth, Texas) 3:07:50
M75-79: Robert Plant (Woodside, Calif.), 2:30:56
F80-84: Eileen Croissant (Greeley, Colo.) 3:49:01
M80-84: Lockett Wood (Lyons, Colo.) 3:11:51
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 & Paralympic Committee (USOPC).