LONG BEACH, Calif. — Ten U.S. elite paratriathletes earned national titles Saturday at the Toyota USA Paratriathlon National Championships, held as part of the inaugural Legacy Triathlon in Long Beach. The race was held at Alamitos Beach, the proposed site of the triathlon competitions for the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Los Angeles.
The race featured a professional prize purse for the first time in history, provided in equal parts by USA Triathlon, Toyota and the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF). In each of five paratriathlon sport classes, national champions received $1,500 each, runners-up received $750 and third-place finishers received $375. Guides for athletes with visual impairments also received equivalent winnings.
Saturday’s course covered a 750-meter swim off the coast of Alamitos Beach, an 18.9k bike on Shoreline Dr. and Queens Highway and a 5k run along the coast on Shoreline Way.
Kendall Gretsch (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Allan Armstrong (Colorado Springs, Colo.) were crowned national champions for the third consecutive year, while Dan St. Pierre (Frankfort, Ill.) successfully defended his title from 2018.
Gretsch was dominant in the women’s PTWC division, crossing the line in 1 hour, 10 minutes, 31 seconds.
“I’ve always liked coming to Nationals because there’s a good mix of people who are racing internationally now, and newer people who are coming up,’ Gretsch said. “It’s cool to be here for this race and see some of the younger athletes competing, and think, ‘Hey, maybe they could be competing here in 2028.’”
The men’s PTWC victory went to retired U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Joshua Sweeney (Hillsboro, Ore.) in 1:07:09. Sweeney is a 2014 Paralympic gold medalist in the sport of sled hockey and is in his first season racing as an elite paratriathlete.
Armstrong, a Sergeant First Class in the U.S. Army, claimed the men’s PTS2 victory in 1:17:52. Armstrong is a member of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program (WCAP) in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
2016 U.S. Paralympic silver medalist Hailey Danz (Wauwatosa, Wis.) earned her second career national title in the women’s PTS2 category, finishing with a time of 1:22:11.
Grace Norman (Jamestown, Ohio), a 2016 U.S. Paralympic gold medalist, claimed the women’s PTS5 title in 1:09:34. Norman said the support from Toyota, which also sponsors the U.S. Paratriathlon National Team, has made a difference in increasing the professionalism of elite paratriathlon while recognizing the accomplishments of the athletes.
“For me, as a Paralympian, to have Toyota sponsor us and be behind us, it’s a huge thing,” Norman said. “There are not very many big sponsors in the Paralympic movement. To have Toyota back us in the prize money was just amazing, too. It just really shows how much Toyota supports us. I’m looking forward to representing Toyota in the (Tokyo 2020 Paralympic) Games and everything like that.”
St. Pierre broke the tape for the PTS5 men with a time of 1:13:56 to secure his third straight national title.
In the women’s PTS4 division, rookie paratriathlete Nicole Ver Kuilen (Saginaw, Mich.) earned her first national title in 1:25:37. The men’s PTS4 victory went to Jamie Brown (Bend, Ore.) in 1:04:43.
In the women’s PTVI division, Amy Dixon (Encinitas, Calif.) and guide Kirsten Sass claimed the win in 1:12:26.
“(The professional prize purse) means a lot to us as elite athletes who have been doing this for a few years, and also for the up-and-coming paratriathletes for them to see that this is what the progression of the sport is looking like and that we are recognized as professional athletes,” Dixon said. “More importantly to me is that they’re recognizing the importance of the guides and giving an equal prize purse, because it really is the only part of the triathlon that’s truly a team sport as a visually impaired athlete.”
Aaron Scheidies (Seattle, Wash.) and guide Ben Collins outran Kyle Coon (Carbondale, Colo.) and guide Zack Goodman to claim the men’s PTVI title, crossing the line in 58:36.
The top-performing athletes in Saturday’s race who were not already members of the Toyota USA Paratriathlon National Team will be considered for the Toyota 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.
Legacy Triathlon weekend also included a paratriathlon skills clinic, hosted by USA Triathlon in conjunction with Dare2Tri Paratriathlon Club, CAF and Angel City Sports. The clinic taught basic swim, bike and run skills to aspiring paratriathletes in hopes of recruiting them to future editions of the Paratriathlon National Championships.
For more information about the Legacy Triathlon and Toyota USA Paratriathlon National Championships, visit thelegacytriathlon.com. For a recap of the Legacy Triathlon age-group race, click here.
2019 Toyota USA Paratriathlon National Championships
750m swim, 18.9k bike, 5k run
Male PTVI: Aaron Scheidies (Seattle, Wash.) and guide Ben Collins, 58:36
Female PTVI: Amy Dixon (Encinitas, Calif.) and guide Kirsten Sass, 1:12:26
Male PTWC: Joshua Sweeney (Hillsboro, Ore.), 1:07:09
Female PTWC: Kendall Gretsch (Colorado Springs, Colo.), 1:10:31
Male PTS2: Allan Armstrong (Colorado Springs, Colo.), 1:17:52
Female PTS2: Hailey Danz (Wauwatosa, Wis.), 1:22:11
Male PTS4: Jamie Brown (Bend, Ore.), 1:04:43
Female PTS4: Nicole Ver Kuilen (Saginaw, Mich.), 1:25:37
Male PTS5: Dan St. Pierre (Frankfort, Ill.), 1:09:34
Female PTS5: Grace Norman (Jamestown, Ohio), 1:09:34
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).