COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — USA Triathlon today announced its 2018 Elite Triathletes of the Year, a roster of the top-performing U.S. elite athletes in draft-legal, non-drafting and off-road triathlon competition. Selections were determined by the USA Triathlon Athlete Advisory Council.
Katie Zaferes (Santa Cruz, Calif.) was named the women’s Olympic/ITU Triathlete of the Year for the second straight year. Her season was defined by consistency on the ITU World Triathlon Series circuit, as she medaled in six of the eight WTS events in 2018. Zaferes’ bronze-medal performance at the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Gold Coast, Australia — combined with her results from the rest of the season — earned her a silver medal in the overall WTS standings. That result demonstrated Zaferes’ continued improvement on the world stage, as she was fourth in the series in 2016 and earned bronze in 2017.
Zaferes also helped the U.S. Mixed Relay Team to a gold medal in the first stop of the inaugural ITU World Mixed Relay Series in Nottingham, England, and a bronze at the Hamburg ITU Triathlon Mixed Relay World Championships.
“I’m excited to win this award, because it’s a reflection of all the hard work and growth as an athlete that I have been putting in over the years,” Zaferes said. “I was really proud of my consistency throughout the year.”
Eli Hemming (Kiowa, Colo.) was named the men’s Olympic/ITU Triathlete of the Year after a breakout season. Hemming started his 2018 campaign with a victory at the Sarasota-Bradenton CAMTRI North American Championships. He went on to earn a career-best ITU World Triathlon Series finish of 11th place in Bermuda; help the U.S. Mixed Relay Team to a gold medal in Nottingham; and finish as the top U.S. man at the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final. He capped his season by grabbing his first two career ITU Triathlon World Cup medals with a bronze in Tongyeong, South Korea, and a silver in Miyazaki, Japan.
Sophie Chase (Carlsbad, Calif.) was named women’s Rookie of the Year. In her first full season as an elite triathlete, Chase won gold medals at the Bridgetown CAMTRI Sprint Triathlon American Cup and the Sarasota-Bradenton CAMTRI North American Championships. She earned three top-12 finishes in ITU Triathlon World Cup events, including a ninth-place performance in Huatulco, Mexico, and placed 19th in her ITU World Triathlon Series debut in Montreal. Chase was also successful in non-drafting events, reaching the podium at the Surf City Escape and Philadelphia Escape Triathlons.
The men’s Rookie of the Year award went to Morgan Pearson (Boulder, Colo.). Pearson’s first race as an elite triathlete was at the Mooloolaba ITU Triathlon World Cup in Australia, where he placed seventh — marking one of the best elite debuts by a male triathlete in U.S. history. Just two months later, he placed 14th in his WTS debut in Yokohama, Japan.
Pearson went on to win the Montreal CAMTRI Sprint Triathlon American Cup and the USA Triathlon Elite National Championships, held as part of the Sarasota-Bradenton ITU Triathlon World Cup. He recorded top-five ITU World Cup finishes in Sarasota-Bradenton and Salinas, Mexico, and anchored the U.S. Mixed Relay Team to gold at the Sarasota-Bradenton CAMTRI Triathlon Mixed Relay American Championships.
“My first year of triathlon was not as smooth as I hoped it would be. I had days that I felt like I was born to do the sport, but I thought I would never make it in the sport,” Pearson said. “As the season went on, I tried to surround myself more and more with people who believed in me, people I could learn from, and people who were generally positive influences on me. I am honored to win this award. However, it is more of a testament to my coach, athletes I trained with, friends and family who were there for me along the way.”
Sarah True (Hanover, N.H.) earned women’s Elite Non-Drafting Triathlete of the Year honors, a nod to her remarkable transition from ITU racing to the non-drafting circuit over the last two seasons. True started her season with a pair of third-place finishes at IRONMAN 70.3 Oceanside in California and IRONMAN 70.3 St George in Utah. She then made her IRONMAN debut at the World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, leading all U.S. women with a fourth-place finish.
“My love for triathlon has only deepened after racing long-course triathlon,” True said. “For most of my career, short-course ITU triathlon was my passion. I never expected that the new world of long course would be as exciting and refreshing as I’ve found it. We are fortunate to have a range of distances and disciplines in our sport; they’re all engaging and challenging in different ways.”
Taking top honors for men’s Elite Non-Drafting Triathlete of the Year was Ben Kanute (Phoenix, Ariz.) for the second consecutive year. Kanute’s 2018 highlights included victories at the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon in San Francisco, IRONMAN 70.3 Texas in Galveston, Texas, the New York Triathlon in New York City, and the Boston Triathlon. He placed fourth at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in South Africa, which he considers his best performance of the season against one of the most talented fields in the event’s history.
Josiah Middaugh (Vail, Colo.) continued his dominance of the U.S. off-road triathlon scene, earning men’s Elite Off-Road Triathlete of the Year honors for the eighth straight year. Middaugh earned five victories on the XTERRA World Tour in 2018, highlighted by his third career Pan American Championship win in Ogden, Utah. He placed fifth at the XTERRA World Championship in Maui.
“To win this honor late in my career gives me a great sense of gratitude,” Middaugh said. “Endurance sport has allowed me to pursue my dreams. I have met the most interesting people, traveled to amazing places, and learned so much about myself. Every failure has been an opportunity to learn and grow. Finding the optimum challenge with tough races and tough competition has kept me motivated to become the best possible version of myself.”
Julie Baker (Sonora, Calif.) was named women’s Elite Off-Road Triathlete of the Year. Baker’s season included victories at XTERRA REAL in California and XTERRA Victoria in British Columbia; runner-up finishes at XTERRA Oak Mountain in Alabama and XTERRA Beaver Creek in Colorado; and a top-nine performance at the XTERRA World Championship.
The 2018 USA Triathlon Elite Triathlete of the Year selections are as follows:
Women’s Olympic/ITU Triathlete of the Year: Katie Zaferes (Santa Cruz, Calif.)
Men’s Olympic/ITU Triathlete of the Year: Eli Hemming (Kiowa, Colo.)
Women’s Rookie of the Year: Sophie Chase (Carlsbad, Calif.)
Men’s Rookie of the Year: Morgan Pearson (Boulder, Colo.)
Women’s Elite Non-Drafting Triathlete of the Year: Sarah True (Hanover, N.H.)
Men’s Elite Non-Drafting Triathlete of the Year: Ben Kanute (Phoenix, Ariz.)
Women’s Elite Off-Road Triathlete of the Year: Julie Baker (Sonora, Calif.)
Men’s Elite Off-Road Triathlete of the Year: Josiah Middaugh (Vail, Colo.)
Note: USA Triathlon Elite Paratriathletes of the Year will be honored in a standalone announcement on Thursday, March 7. Under-23 Triathletes of the Year will be featured alongside the Junior Elite Triathletes of the Year on Friday, March 8.
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).