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World Champion Katie Zaferes Headlines 2019 Elite Triathletes of the Year, Presented by Wahoo Fitness

By USA Triathlon | Feb. 27, 2020, 2:11 p.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — USA Triathlon today announced its 2019 Elite, Under-23 and Junior Elite Triathletes of the Year presented by Wahoo Fitness, recognizing the top elite performers 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 Women’s Olympic/ITU Triathlete of the Year for the third time after a remarkable season. Zaferes earned her first world title in 2019, winning five of eight races in the season-long ITU World Triathlon Series, including the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final. She is the first U.S. athlete to win the overall WTS title since Gwen Jorgensen won in 2014 and 2015 and went on to become the 2016 Olympic gold medalist.  

Zaferes’ victory at the Grand Final was especially meaningful, as it came just two weeks after she crashed out of the Tokyo ITU World Olympic Qualification Event, resulting in a broken nose and 23 stitches in her mouth.

“It’s an honor to win this award,” Zaferes said. “The amount of people who have impacted my journey in triathlon and have been a part of my evolution as a triathlete are bountiful, and I like to think that awards like this recognize them as well. Being able to progress each year is a team effort, and I am fortunate to be surrounded by the best one.”

Matt McElroy (Huntington Beach, Calif.) earned Men’s Olympic/ITU Triathlete of the Year honors after a breakout 2019 season. McElroy made history with a silver-medal performance at ITU World Triathlon Leeds — becoming the second U.S. man in history, and the first in a decade, to medal in a WTS event. He went on to finish as the top U.S. man at the Tokyo ITU World Olympic Qualification Event and earn three ITU Triathlon World Cup victories to end the season. 

“I think this past year I was able to showcase some of my true potential,” McElroy said. “I have a great group of people around me, so I hope I can keep building on my late season results.”

Earning Women’s Elite Non-Drafting Triathlete of the Year was Chelsea Sodaro (Davis, Calif.). Sodaro’s season included a win at the IRONMAN 70.3 South American Championship in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and a fourth-place finish at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in Nice, France. She also broke the tape at IRONMAN 70.3 Santa Rosa and IRONMAN 70.3 Augusta and placed third at IRONMAN 70.3 Indian Wells La Quinta. 

Timothy O’Donnell (Boulder, Colo.) was crowned Men’s Elite Non-Drafting Triathlete of the Year after a historic second-place finish at the IRONMAN World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. With that performance, he became the first American ever to break eight hours on the infamous course. Also in 2019, O’Donnell placed third at IRONMAN Boulder and second at IRONMAN 70.3 Santa Rosa. He battled injuries throughout the season, including a March cycling crash that resulted in several broken ribs, and a broken foot sustained just seven weeks before the IRONMAN World Championship.

“I’m always honored to be recognized by my fellow USA Triathlon members, but I’m particularly humbled by the recognition of my performance at the IRONMAN World Championship and the barriers I had to overcome to make that performance a reality,” O’Donnell said.

Claiming Men’s Elite Off-Road Triathlete of the Year honors for the ninth straight year was Josiah Middaugh (Vail, Colo.). Middaugh earned victories at XTERRA Beaver Creek and XTERRA Quebec and placed second at XTERRA Oak Mountain and XTERRA Victoria. He finished sixth at the XTERRA World Championship in Maui and was just off the podium in fourth at the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships in Pontevedra, Spain.

Suzie Snyder (Averill Park, N.Y.) earned top honors for Women’s Elite Off-Road Triathlete of the Year. Snyder’s season was highlighted by wins at XTERRA Beaver Creek and XTERRA Oak Mountain. She took fifth at the XTERRA Pan American Championship in Ogden, Utah, and sixth at the XTERRA World Championship.

Marc Dubrick (DeKalb, Ill.) and Gina Sereno (Madison, Wis.) were named Men’s and Women’s Rookie of the Year, respectively. Dubrick earned five top-10 finishes in CAMTRI Sprint Triathlon American Cup races in 2019, capping the season with a career-best fifth place at the CAMTRI Iberoamerican Championships in Santiago, Chile. Sereno earned three top-20 finishes in CAMTRI events in 2019, highlighted by a 14th-place showing in Kelowna, British Columbia.

Earning Under-23 Triathlete of the Year honors for the second straight year were Seth Rider (Germantown, Tenn.) and Taylor Knibb (Washington, D.C.). Rider earned career-best finishes on the ITU World Triathlon Series (12th in Montreal) and ITU Triathlon World Cup (5th in Chengdu, China) circuits in 2019, and was the top U.S. man at the ITU U23 World Championships. He was instrumental in the United States’ elite mixed relay success, contributing to two ITU World Mixed Relay Series podiums in Edmonton and Tokyo and a bronze at the ITU Mixed U23-Junior Relay World Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Knibb earned two top-five finishes in WTS competition in 2019 and made her elite ITU World Triathlon Grand Final debut with a 14th-place showing. She helped the U.S. to bronze medals at the Edmonton ITU World Mixed Relay Series stop and the ITU Mixed U23-Junior Relay World Championships. Knibb capped her season on a high note, grabbing a silver medal at the Santo Domingo ITU World Cup. 

Drew Shellenberger (Indianapolis, Ind.) was named Men’s Junior Elite Triathlete of the Year. He earned a three-peat national title at the USA Triathlon High School National Championships, placed second at the USA Triathlon Junior Elite National Championships and won three races on the USA Triathlon Junior Elite Cup circuit. Shellenberger also represented the U.S. in international competition at the Sarasota-Bradenton CAMTRI Junior American Cup (7th), Monterrey CAMTRI Junior American Championships (13th), and ITU Junior World Championships in Lausanne (27th).

Gillian Cridge (Indianapolis, Ind.) was crowned back-to-back Women’s Junior Elite Triathlete of the Year. She successfully defended her title at Junior Elite Nationals and won the Flatlands and Pleasant Prairie Junior Elite Cups. Cridge also represented the U.S. in international competition at the Clermont CAMTRI Sprint Triathlon American Cup (9th), Sarasota-Bradenton CAMTRI Junior American Cup (bronze), Holten ETU Junior European Cup (13th) and ITU Junior World Championships (9th). 

USA Triathlon also recognized the sport’s up-and-coming talent by unveiling the 2019 Junior Elite and Youth Elite All-Americans and honorable mentions. Selections were based on the final national ranking and season-long performances of athletes ages 13-15 (youth elite) and 16-19 (junior elite) in top junior and draft-legal events. 

The 2019 USA Triathlon Elite, U23 and Junior 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: Matt McElroy (Huntington Beach, Calif.)

Women’s Elite Non-Drafting Triathlete of the Year: Chelsea Sodaro (Davis, Calif.) 
Men’s Elite Non-Drafting Triathlete of the Year: Timothy O’Donnell (Boulder, Colo.)

Women’s Elite Off-Road Triathlete of the Year: Suzie Snyder (Averill Park, N.Y.) 
Men’s Elite Off-Road Triathlete of the Year: Josiah Middaugh (Vail, Colo.)

Women’s Rookie of the Year: Gina Sereno (Madison, Wis.)
Men’s Rookie of the Year: Marc Dubrick (DeKalb, Ill.) 

Women’s U23 Triathlete of the Year: Taylor Knibb (Washington, D.C.)
Men’s U23 Triathlete of the Year: Seth Rider (Germantown, Tenn.)

Women’s Junior Elite Triathlete of the Year: Gillian Cridge (Indianapolis, Ind.) 
Men’s Junior Elite Triathlete of the Year: Drew Shellenberger (Indianapolis, Ind.)

2019 USA Triathlon Junior Elite All-Americans — Women (ages 16-19)
Gillian Cridge (Indianapolis, Ind.)
Liberty Ricca (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
Makena Gates (Canton, Ga.)
(HM) Paige Horner (Grimes, Iowa)
(HM) Molly Elliott (Boise, Idaho)
(HM) Kira Stanley (Acworth, Ga.)

2019 USA Triathlon Junior Elite All-Americans — Men (ages 16-19)
Drew Shellenberger (Indianapolis, Ind.)
Davis Bove (Franklin, Tenn.)
Cavan Wilson (Coral Gables, Fla.)
(HM) Luis Ortiz (Orlando, Fla.)
(HM) Nicholas Holmes (Glendale, Wis.)
(HM) Jack Deweerdt (Hoffman Estates, Ill.)

2019 USA Triathlon Youth Elite All-Americans — Girls (ages 13-15)
Clara James-Heer (Grand Rapids, Mich.)
Faith Dasso (New Braunfels, Texas)
Jenna Buchanan (Bartlett, Ill.)
(HM) Jaci Sievers (Elkhorn, Neb.)
(HM) Brenna Zerby (Fairview, Texas)
(HM) Andrea Ballestero (Clearwater, Fla.)
(HM) Mia Wentzy (Sioux Falls, S.D.)
(HM) Gabby Martin (Fircrest, Wash.)

2019 USA Triathlon Youth Elite All-Americans — Boys (ages 13-15)

Lawson McLeod (Lutz, Fla.)
Steven Cartwright (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Bryson Gates (Canton, Ga.)
(HM) Jaxson Plumb (Des Moines, Iowa)
(HM) Braxton Legg (Odessa, Fla.)
(HM) Kevin Lorinc (Plano, Texas)

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).

 

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