USA Triathlon News Articles Lee Walther, Dani Fi...

Lee Walther, Dani Fischer Headline 2019 USA Triathlon Age Group Triathletes of the Year, Presented by Wahoo Fitness

By USA Triathlon | Feb. 24, 2020, 12:52 p.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — USA Triathlon today announced its 2019 Age Group Triathletes of the Year presented by Wahoo Fitness, as selected by USA Triathlon’s Age Group Committee. Headlining the honorees are Lee Walther (Oklahoma City, Okla.) and Dani Fischer (Greenfield, Ind.), who were named men’s and women’s Overall Age Group Triathletes of the Year, respectively.

Walther had a remarkable season, sweeping the men’s 55-59 age group in the sprint- and Olympic-distance races at the Toyota USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships in Cleveland. Walther’s Olympic-distance victory, at age 59, marked his fourth consecutive national title at the event. He went on to earn a silver medal at the ITU Age Group Standard (Olympic-distance) World Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland. For his achievements, Walther was also crowned Men’s Masters Triathlete of the Year for the third year in a row.

“I don’t feel worthy of this award, as there are so many fantastic triathletes in our country. To be singled out for this award is very humbling,” Walther said. “I have been lucky … my main obstacle has been to believe that I could do it.”

Fischer placed second overall for women and first in her age group in both the sprint- and Olympic-distance races at Age Group Nationals. In addition, she claimed overall victories at IRONMAN 70.3 Wisconsin and IRONMAN 70.3 Muncie. She also won her age group at IRONMAN 70.3 Boulder and the Michigan Titanium long course triathlon.

“Even though this is an individual award, I could not have done it without the love and support of my team, Tri Loco (based in Indianapolis),” Fischer said. “Triathlon has brought some pretty incredible people into my life.”

For the second year, Triathlete of the Year awards also featured an Open category. This award recognizes the top performers in general age group competition (vs. a junior, masters or grand masters category). Fischer doubled as the women’s Open Triathlete of the Year, while Travis Wood (Boise, Idaho) was named Open Triathlete of the Year for men.

Wood raced to the men’s sprint-distance overall title at Age Group Nationals, and also placed third for men 20-24 in the Olympic distance. He took second overall in the amateur men’s field at IRONMAN 70.3 Victoria and IRONMAN 70.3 Coeur d’Alene. Wood competed in the sprint- and Olympic-distance races at the ITU Age Group World Championships, placing seventh in both events, and also raced the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in Nice, France. 

“I know there are many other triathletes who work incredibly hard and face many more obstacles than me, so to be given this award is very humbling,” Wood said. “I’m filled with gratitude for the family, friends and companies who have supported me on my triathlon journey.”

Junior Triathlete of the Year honors went to Connor Reichel (Corydon, Ind.) and Nicole Collins (San Diego, Calif.). Reichel’s 2019 season included two podiums at Age Group Nationals in the men’s 17-19 category: first in the Olympic-distance, and third in the sprint. He capped off the season with a top-five finish for men 18-19 at the ITU Age Group Standard World Championships.

Collins, who is on the club triathlon team at the University of California at Berkeley, earned three runner-up finishes at West Coast Collegiate Triathlon Conference races throughout the season. She went on to place 19th in the Olympic-distance race at the USA Triathlon Collegiate Club National Championships in Tempe, Arizona, and also added an overall victory at the Solana Beach Triathlon.

While Walther doubled as the men’s Masters Triathlete of the Year, Ginger Reiner (Lincoln, Mass.) was named women’s Masters Triathlete of the Year for the second year in a row. Reiner earned the women’s Masters title in the sprint- and Olympic-distance races at Age Group Nationals. She also earned a world title in her age group and in the Masters category at the ITU Age Group Standard World Championships.

In the men’s Grand Masters category, Mike Wien (Marietta, Ga.) earned top honors. Wien had a dominant 2019 season that included men’s 65-69 age group wins at IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga, IRONMAN 70.3 Boulder and the USA Triathlon Long Course National Championships in Miami. In addition, he represented Team USA at the ITU Long Course Triathlon World Championships in Pontevedra, Spain, collecting an age group bronze medal.

“As the kid who got picked last and played right field, it is a great honor to receive this recognition,” Wien said. “I am very grateful to have been able to fight off the aging process and to still be improving. It is humbling to be competitive with such a terrific group of athletes. Triathlon attracts people who are living exciting lives with passion and purpose, and I love being a part of that community.”

Linda Robb (Juno Beach, Fla.) was named the Karen McKeachie Women’s Grand Masters Triathlete of the Year in honor of the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame member who passed away in 2016. In 2019, Robb won her age group at the St. Anthony’s Triathlon in St. Petersburg, Florida; won the Grand Masters and women’s 55-59 titles in the Olympic-distance race at Age Group Nationals; and earned the women’s 55-59 gold medal at the ITU Age Group Standard World Championships.

The men’s and women’s Great Grand Masters Triathlete of the Year honors went to John Gregory (Roanoke, Va.) and Missy LeStrange (Visalia, Calif.), respectively. Gregory reached the men’s 70-74 podium in both the sprint- and Olympic-distance races at Age Group Nationals. He went on to represent Team USA at the world championships, placing fourth in the sprint and seventh in the standard-distance races in Lausanne. Gregory also won his age group at IRONMAN 70.3 North Carolina.

LeStrange, last year’s Overall Age Group Triathlete of the Year, had another remarkable season. She earned an Olympic-distance win for women 65-69 at Age Group Nationals and was runner-up the next day in the sprint distance. At the ITU Age Group Standard World Championships, she captured a bronze medal. Additionally, LeStrange won her age group in three IRONMAN 70.3 races and one full IRONMAN. She took second in her age group at both the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in Nice and the IRONMAN World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

“I'm thrilled to still be having so much fun racing triathlons,” LeStrange said. “This award and recognition motivate me to prepare for the next season. This particular title, ‘Great Grandmaster,’ is a pleasant way of reminding me that I've been racing 40 years and that triathlon continues to enrich my life.”

The men’s Off-Road Age Group Triathlete of the Year went to Mike Dorr (Avon, Colo.). Dorr was the first amateur, placing 11th in the overall field including pros, at XTERRA Oak Mountain in Alabama. He won his age group and was the fourth amateur at XTERRA Beaver Creek in Colorado. At the XTERRA Pan American Championship in Ogden, Utah, he took second amateur, first in his age group and 15th in the overall field. To cap off a standout season, Dorr placed sixth for men 40-44 at the XTERRA World Championship in Maui.

Jennifer Razee (Edwards, Colo.) was named women’s Off-Road Triathlete of the Year. Razee won her age group at XTERRA Oak Mountain, the XTERRA Pan American Championship — where she was the first amateur and 13th female overall — and the XTERRA World Championship. At XTERRA Beaver Creek, while second in her age group, Razee was the 12th overall woman and third amateur across the line.

The 2019 USA Triathlon Age Group Triathletes of the Year and honorable mention selections are as follows:

Men’s Overall Age-Group Triathlete of the Year: Lee Walther (Oklahoma City, Okla.)

Women’s Overall Age-Group Triathlete of the Year: Dani Fischer (Greenfield, Ind.)

Men’s Open Age-Group Triathlete of the Year: Travis Wood (Boise, Idaho)
Honorable Mentions: Christopher Douglas (Atlanta, Ga.), Justin Lippert (Middletown, N.J.), Matthew Malone (Boulder, Colo.), Roy Madrid (Boulder, Colo.), Eric Engel (Madison, Wis.)

Women’s Open Age-Group Triathlete of the Year: Dani Fischer (Greenfield, Ind.)
Honorable Mentions: Grace Alexander (Atlanta, Ga.), Gabrielle Bunten (Forest Lake, Minn.), Jacqui Giuliano (Oakwood Hills, Ill.), Stefanie Cullingford (Monroe, Conn.), Meghan Fillnow (Charlotte, N.C.)

Men’s Junior Triathlete of the Year: Connor Reichel (Corydon, Ind.)
Honorable Mention: Zane Grenoble (Playa Del Rey, Calif.)

Women’s Junior Triathlete of the Year: Nicole Collins (San Dimas, Calif.)
Honorable Mention: Chloe Ramirez (Leesburg, Va.)

Men’s Masters Triathlete of the Year: Lee Walther (Oklahoma City, Okla.)
Honorable Mentions: Antonio Ferreira da Silva Neto (Austin, Texas), Daniel Stubleski (Point Pleasant, N.J.), Clint Dowd (Goffstown, N.H.), Robert Skaggs (Solana Beach, Calif.), Kirk Framke (Denver, Colo.)

Women’s Masters Triathlete of the Year: Ginger Reiner (Lincoln, Mass.)
Honorable Mentions: Kirsten Sass (McKenzie, Tenn.), Adrienne LeBlanc (Scottsdale, Ariz.), Karen Wood (Waxhaw, N.C.), Becky Youngberg (Eden Prairie, Minn.), Steph Popelar (Elizabeth, Colo.)

Men’s Grand Masters Triathlete of the Year: Mike Wien (Marietta, Ga.)
Honorable Mentions: Douglas Hill (Tacoma, Wash.), John Anhold (Flagstaff, Ariz.), Ron Gierut (Cedar Rapids, Iowa), Jeff Reed (Norwich, Vt.), Greg Taylor (Yankton, S.D.)

Karen McKeachie Women’s Grand Masters Triathlete of the Year: Linda Robb (Juno Beach, Fla.)
Honorable Mentions: Leslie Knibb (Washington, D.C.), Maureen McDonald (Sherman Oaks, Calif.), Mary Catherine Malin (Arlington, Va.), Kelly Dippold (Irvine, Calif.), Donna Smyers (Adamant, Vt.)

Men’s Great Grand Masters Triathlete of the Year: John Gregory (Roanoke, Va.)
Honorable Mentions: Al Truscott (Gig Harbor, Wash.), Robert Plant (Woodside, Calif.), Tim Hughes (Lake Forest, Calif.)

Women’s Great Grand Masters Triathlete of the Year: Missy LeStrange (Visalia, Calif.)
Honorable Mentions: Sibyl Jacobson (New York, N.Y.), Carol Hassel (West Palm Beach, Fla.), Cecilia Brzys (South Lyon, Mich.)

Men’s Off-Road Age-Group Triathlete of the Year: Mike Dorr (Avon, Colo.)
Honorable Mention: Cliff Millemann (Davis, Calif.)

Women’s Off-Road Age-Group Triathlete of the Year: Jennifer Razee (Edwards, Colo.)
Honorable Mention: Beverly Enslow (Metamora, Ill.)

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).