Clara James-Heer, at age 14, won the overall women's title with a massive 5-minute gap on her closest competitor.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Fourteen-year-old Clara James-Heer (Grand Rapids, Mich.) obliterated her competition Sunday at the USA Triathlon Draft-Legal Duathlon National Championships in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, while Adoh Doherty (Taunton, Mass.) captured the men’s overall victory and his second overall podium of the weekend.
The Draft-Legal Sprint was the final race of Duathlon Nationals weekend, which also included Non-Drafting Standard and Non-Drafting Sprint races on Saturday. The first USA Triathlon-produced National Championship to be held since 2019, Duathlon Nationals was held with COVID-19 safety precautions in place according to USA Triathlon’s Safe Return to Multisport initiative.
Sunday’s race featured a 5-kilometer run, 20-kilometer bike and 2.9-kilometer run. The draft-legal format encourages athletes to ride in packs and work together on the bike — but James-Heer, the youngest athlete in the women’s field, made that impossible at the front of the race. After an 18-minute, 37-second first 5k run, she had a gap of nearly 90 seconds on her closest competitor — 18-year-old Cassidy Hickey (Parker, Colo.), Saturday’s Non-Drafting Sprint champion.
James-Heer only widened her lead on the bike. By the time she hit the second transition, she had 4 minutes, 50 seconds on Hickey and nearly 6 minutes on third-place Kirsten Sass (McKenzie, Tenn.). It was too wide of a lead for anyone to catch her, but just to be safe, James-Heer dropped the fastest 2.9k run of the day in 11:50. She broke the tape with a total time of 1:04:3, and waited 5 minutes, 12 seconds at the finish line to greet runner-up Hickey (1:09:47). Sass, who raced in all three events of Duathlon Nationals weekend, rounded out the podium in 1:10:28.
“I knew (Cassidy) was a strong biker, so I was trying to get a lead on the first run and see how it went from there,” James-Heer said. “I’ve been running since I was really little, and I do track and cross-country — it’s one of my favorite sports.”
The 2019 USA Triathlon Youth Elite National Champion at age 12, James-Heer has big dreams for her future in the sport.
“I’d like to go to the Olympics and Worlds and do well at both of those.”
Hickey and Sass finished second and third among all women, the second overall podium for each athlete over the weekend. Hickey captured Saturday’s Non-Drafting Sprint title and Sass won the Non-Drafting Standard event.
“I love seeing young people in the sport. We need more young women,” said Sass, who also earned two Masters national titles this weekend. “It’s fun to see that talent out there, and I hope they stick with it. The world is their oyster — if they put in the work, I have no doubt they’ll succeed. Test yourself, push yourself, race hard, but keep it fun. If you have passion and you love doing it, it’ll never be work.”
In the men’s race, Todd Buckingham (Big Rapids, Mich.), who won Saturday’s Non-Drafting Sprint, got off to a strong start for the first 5k run. He led at the first transition with Nick Aguila (Manchester, N.H.) and Doherty, Saturday’s Standard-Distance silver and bronze medalists, chasing close behind. The trio worked together for the first half of the bike, but Doherty and Aguila made a surge late in the 20k ride to drop the previous day’s champion.
On the final 2.9k run, Doherty made his move to the front of the race — and ultimately broke the tape 18 seconds ahead of Aguila with a final time of 56:29. Aguila took his second runner-up finish of Duathlon Nationals weekend with a time of 56:47, and Buckingham took third in 57:15.
“I came here for the win,” Doherty said. “We had a group of three working together, and Nick (Aguila) and I were like, ‘Alright, we’re going to have to break the legs off of somebody to make it a true race at the finish. So, he and I were taking 10- and 15-second pulls. We got into transition about even, and we just saw who had the legs at the end. None of this would be possible without God. He’s my fuel, he’s my energy, and without Him I’d be nothing, so all glory goes to Him.”
Earning the men’s Masters national title on Sunday was Jared Nieters (Warrenton, Va.) with a time of 1:02:45.
“I’m pretty stoked,” Nieters said. “I was a little deeper in the field after the run than I wanted to be, but I’m a road bike racer and cyclocross racer, so I knew on the road bike I’d be able to put some power in. I missed racing for the last year. Participating in these events, everybody’s super positive, the communication is super clear. It was awesome.”
The following athletes successfully defended their Draft-Legal Sprint national titles from 2019 (Duathlon Nationals was not held in 2020): Paige Orcutt (Morrison, Colo., F30-34); Sass (F40-44 and Women’s Masters); Greg Pelican (Estero, Fla., M60-64 and Men’s Grand Masters); Sharon Roggenbuck (Hillsborough, N.C., F80-84); and Kenneth Fleischhacker (Littleton, Colo., M85-89).
Eighteen athletes earned multiple titles across the weekend at Duathlon Nationals, including: Hickey; Doherty; Samantha Downey (Denver, Colo., F25-29); Orcutt; Karoline Muehlfellner (Dunedin, Fla., F35-39); Sass; Celia Dubey (Tarpon Springs, Fla., F45-49); Thomas Woods (Lincoln, Neb., M50-54); : Barry Phelps (Thompsons Station, Tenn., M55-59); Suzanne Cordes (Daytona Beach, Fla., F60-64); Pelican; Nancy Mallon (Denver, Colo., F75-79); Lockett Wood (Lyons, Colo., M80-84); Roggenbuck; Fleishhacker; Sharon Deane (Knoxville, Tenn., Athena 39 & Under); Lance Fargo (Dover, Del., Clydesdale 40-59); and Jonathon Sellers (Indianapolis, Ind., Clydesdale 39 & Under).
In all three races of Duathlon Nationals weekend, top finishers in each age group earned the opportunity to represent Team USA in duathlon competition at both the 2021 and 2022 World Duathlon Championships. The 2021 edition will take place in Almere, Netherlands, from Sept. 3-12, while the 2022 event is in Townsville, Australia, from Aug. 18-28. For more information about Team USA, comprised of the top amateur multisport athletes who represent the U.S. at each ITU World Championships event, visit usatriathlon.org/teamusa.
For complete information, results and coverage from the 2021 USA Triathlon Duathlon National Championships, visit usatriathlon.org/du2021.
Draft-Legal Sprint Duathlon National Championships — Complete Results
5k run, 20k bike, 2.9k run
Male Overall: Adoh Doherty (Taunton, Mass.), 56:29
Female Overall: Clara James-Heer (Grand Rapids, Mich.), 1:04:34
Male Masters: Jared Nieters (Warrenton, Va.), 1:02:45
Female Masters: Kirsten Sass (McKenzie, Tenn.), 1:10:28
Male Grand Masters: Greg Pelican (Estero, Fla.), 1:08:04
Female Grand Masters: Jodie Bolt (Lakewood, Wash.), 1:17:43
M15-19: Jackson Parrill (Parker, Colo.), 1:00:12
F15-19: Clara James-Heer (Grand Rapids, Mich.), 1:04:34
M20-24: Nicolas Jaradelamaza (Ruskin, Fla.), 1:04:58
F20-24: Carolyn Hoover (Bethesda, Md.), 1:34:04
M25-29: Adoh Doherty (Taunton, Mass.), 56:29
F25-29: Samantha Downey (Denver, Colo.), 1:12:52
M30-34: Nick Aguila (Manchester, N.H.), 56:47
F30-34: Paige Orcutt (Morrison, Colo.), 1:14:10
M35-39: Chris Fischer (Brooklyn, N.Y.), 1:05:58
F35-39: Karoline Muehlfellner (Dunedin, Fla.), 1:20:20
M40-44: Jared Nieters (Warrenton, Va.), 1:02:45
F40-44: Kirsten Sass (McKenzie, Tenn.), 1:10:28
M45-49: Leandro Contreras (West Palm Beach, Fla.), 1:04:16
F45-49: Celia Dubey (Tarpon Springs, Fla.), 1:13:24
M50-54: Thomas Woods (Lincoln, Neb.), 1:06:02
F50-54: Cynthia Abrami (Santa Barbara, Calif.), 1:15:25
M55-59: Barry Phelps (Thompsons Station, Tenn.), 1:05:37
F55-59: Jodie Bolt (Lakewood, Wash.), 1:17:43
M60-64: Greg Pelican (Estero, Fla.), 1:08:04
F60-64: Suzanne Cordes (Daytona Beach, Fla.), 1:20:20
M65-69: Mike Lies (Lawrenceburg, Ind.), 1:13:41
F65-69: Colleen Rebant (Ovilla, Texas), 1:25:36
M70-74: Keith Woodward (Stowe, Vt.), 1:18:11
F70-74: Vicki McCloskey (Washington, N.H.), 1:34:04
M75-79: Leandro Contreras (West Palm Beach, Fla.), 1:16:40
F75-79: Nancy Mallon (Denver, Colo.), 2:02:23
M80-84: Lockett Wood (Lyons, Colo.), 1:55:06
F80-84: Sharon Roggenbuck (Hillsborough, N.C.), 2:16:25
M85-89: Kenneth Fleischhacker (Littleton, Colo.), 1:41:54
Clydesdale 60+: Michael Demello (Vacaville, Calif.), 1:44:38
Clydesdale 40-59: Marcelo DaSilva (Culver City, Calif.), 1:14:15
Athena 40-54: Kimee Armour (Auburn, Ill.), 2:13:06
Clydesdale 39 & Under: Jonathon Sellers (Indianapolis, Ind.), 1:16:13
Athena 39 & Under: Sharon Deane (Knoxville, Tenn.), 1:21:43
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 4,000 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 World Triathlon Championships, Pan American Games and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. USA Triathlon is a proud member of World Triathlon and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC).