COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — USA Triathlon today announced its 2021 Age Group Triathletes of the Year presented by Wahoo Fitness, as selected by USA Triathlon’s Age Group Committee. Headlining the honorees are Minori Minagawa (Dublin, Ohio) and Dougin Walker (Tampa, Fla.), who were named Women’s and Men’s Overall Age Group Triathletes of the Year, respectively.
Throughout this week, USA Triathlon will announce and celebrate the winners of the annual Athletes of the Year, which honors the top age group and elite multisport athletes and elite paratriathletes from the previous season. Athletes of the Year were recognized at this past week’s Endurance Exchange presented by BOA Nutrition, USA Triathlon’s annual endurance sports industry conference.
The 2021 season was a welcomed return to racing for multisport athletes across the United States, and Minagawa and Walker turned in impressive seasons to earn the Overall Age Group Triathletes of the Year honors.
Minagawa, 27, won her age group in both the Olympic- and Sprint-Distance National Championships at the 2021 Toyota USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships held in Milwaukee. To cap her 2021 season, Minagawa earned the overall women’s amateur champion title at the Challenge Miami race. She is coached by Jarrod Evans and is a member of Triathlon Gold.
“I’m honored to have been selected. The season was by no means perfect, but it was definitely a year to remember. I know that I couldn’t have done it without the people who helped me get to where I am today,” said Minagawa, whose 2022 goal is to compete in her first race in the pro field after earning her elite license card in 2021. “I have a long way to go, but I’m excited to see what my first year as a pro triathlete will bring. I love the incredible community that triathlon brings. I’ve been fortunate to have friends and mentors from all backgrounds who continue to support me on this journey.”
Walker’s 2021 season also earned him Masters Triathlete of the Year honors, as the 56-year-old raced to podium spots in the Olympic- and Sprint-distance National Championships at Age Group National Championships. In IRONMAN races, Walker won his age group at IRONMAN Indiana, took second at IRONMAN Chattanooga, placed fourth at IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships and won his age group at IRONMAN 70.3 Florida. He is coached by Max Shute and is a member of the Kennedy Law Racing team.
“It never occurred to me that my results were good enough to get an award of this type. I also feel very lucky, as lots of things have worked out well for me in the racing world over the last year and a half,” said Walker, who has been a triathlete for more than 30 years. “When I started triathlon in 1987, I loved the fact that it was something different and kind of crazy. I've grown to appreciate how positive and supportive a vast majority of the people in the sport are, even most of those who are fiercely competitive.”
Ginger Reiner (Lincoln, Mass.) earned the Women’s Masters Triathlete of the Year honors as she won the Masters titles in both the Olympic- and Sprint-Distance National Championships at Age Group National Championships. Reiner is coached by Karen Smyers and is a member of Team Psycho.
“I’m honored to be selected. There are so many speedy 40-plus women,” said Reiner, 44.
The Men’s and Women’s Grand Masters Triathlete of the Year honors went to Greg Taylor (Yankton, S.D.) and Donna Smyers (Adamant, VT), respectively. Taylor, 67, won his age group at Age Group National Championships and at IRONMAN 70.3 Hawaii. He finished second in his age group at IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships in St. George, Utah.
“This honor is a testament to USA Triathlon and all of my competitors who provide the inspiration that drives me to continue training,” Taylor said.
A triathlete for more than 30 years, Smyers, 64, returned to ultra-distance racing in 2021, competing in IROMAN Lake Placid, her first IROMAN-distance race in more than five years. She also turned in impressive performances in both the Olympic- and Sprint-Distance National Championships at Age Group National Championships. She is a member of the Green Mountain Multisport Club.
“There are so many deserving athletes of awards that I am always amazed if I get chosen,” Smyers said. “Triathlon is what I do and has been my main focus outside of work for 30 years now. I love the fitness, the camaraderie and the satisfaction from competing well. Nearly all my best friends are triathletes or runners (or as we age, used to be triathletes and runners).”
The Men’s Great Grand Masters Triathlete of the Year, Mike Wien (Boulder, Colo.), also took the same honors in 2019. He excelled in 2021, winning his age group national title in the Sprint-Distance National Championships at Age Group National Championships, while finishing second in the Olympic-Distance. He also won his age group world championship at IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships in St. George, Utah.
“As a kid, I was not very good at sports I was the guy always picked last. So, having the success I have had this past year and receiving the recognition is very special to me,” Wien said.
Carol Gephart (Hamilton, Mich.) earned Celeste Callahan Women’s Great Grand Masters Triathlete of the Year honors. A triathlete since the 80s, Gephart won the national title in her age group in the Olympic-Distance National Championship at Age Group National Championships and won the overall women's title and her age group in the Olympic distance at Michigan Titanium. The award is named in honor of Callahan, a pioneer in the women’s multisport community, longtime leader within USA Triathlon governance and a frequent member of Team USA for ITU duathlon and triathlon world championships and winner of multiple world championships medals. She was the recipient of the first-ever International Triathlon Union Women’s Committee Award of Excellence, a charter member of the USA Triathlon Women’s Committee, a USA Triathlon Level II Coach and Level II Race Director, and founder and leader of the 500-member Team CWW, which focuses on introducing women to triathlon in Colorado.
“I am honored and sincerely grateful. I am particularly honored because there are so many talented and fast women in my age group. Winning this boosts my dedication and motivation to keep on working hard and it reminds me of how fortunate I have been to have had so many good people supporting my efforts,” Gephart said.
Michael Dorr (Avon, Colo.) and Deanna McCurdy (Littleton, Colo.) were awarded the Men's and Women's Off-Road Triathlete of the Year honors.
Dorr, who was also honored with the award in 2019, won the age group world title in the men's 45-49 division at the 2021 XTERRA World Championship in Hawaii. He also took the 45-49 age group title wins at the XTERRA U.S. Championships in Ogden, Utah, and at XTERRA Beaver Creek.
McCurdy is also another repeat winner, taking home Off-Road Triathlete of the Year honors in 2017. At the 2021 XTERRA U.S. Championships, McCurdy won the women's 45-49 age group title and finished fifth overall among all women. She also won the 45-49 age group crown at XTERRA Beaver Creek and at XTERRA Oak Mountain, placing fifth and fourth overall in the respective races. She took the overall win at XTERRA Lory. McCurdy is the founder and head coach of Team Miles for Smiles-Wings to Fly Racing. Miles for Smiles is a training team created to help raise funds for the Foundation for Angelman Syndrome Therapeutics (F.A.S.T.), a not-for-profit whose sole purpose is to fund research, and ultimately a cure for, Angelman Syndrome (AS).
The Men’s and Women’s Junior Triathlete of the Year honors went to Kyle Swenson (Rogers, Minn.) and Alexandra Poole (Durham, N.C.), respectively. Swenson, 19, placed second in his age group in the Olympic-Distance National Championship at Age Group National Championships, and earned the overall victories at the HITS/Alpha Win Triathlon in Sarasota, Florida and the Lake Minnetonka Triathlon, Timberman Triathlon and Maple Grove Triathlon races in his home state of Minnesota. He is coached by Evan Culbert and is a member of the Iowa State Triathlon Club.
“I am honored to have received this recognition knowing the accomplishments the former honorees have and continue to achieve,” Swenson said. “I am blessed to be surrounded by family, friends, teammates, coaches and supporters who have invested so much into helping me succeed in the sport that I love.”
Poole, 19, had an impressive win at the Clermont Draft Legal Challenge, which earned her an elite triathlete license to race with the elite field in 2022. She also represented Team USA in Quarteira, Portugal, at the 2021 World Triathlon Junior World Championships and was ranked second in the U.S. Junior Elite Series.
“I genuinely cannot express my gratitude for how far I have come as an athlete in the past few years and all those who have helped me along the way,” Poole said. “I am so appreciative of this award and excited for what’s next.”
The 2021 USA Triathlon Age Group Triathletes of the Year and honorable mention selections are as follows:
Women’s Overall Age Group Triathlete of the Year: Minori Minagawa (Dublin, Ohio)
Honorable Mentions: Meghan Fillnow, Bridget Foote, Becca Kawaoka, Michelle Stratton, Annamarie Strehlow
Men’s Overall Age Group Triathlete of the Year: Dougin Walker (Tampa, Fla.)
Honorable Mentions: Todd Buckingham, Klodian Mitri, Brian Reynolds, Benjamin Stone, Mike Wien
Women’s Masters Age Group Triathlete of the Year: Ginger Reiner (Lincoln, Mass.)
Honorable Mentions: Caitlin Drap, Jessica Holmes, Deanna Newman, Idalmis Pedrero, Cathy Yndestad
Men’s Masters Age Group Triathlete of the Year: Dougin Walker (Tampa, Fla.)
Honorable Mentions: James Hallberg, James Harrington, Tim Hola, Daniel Stubleski, Peter Valentyik
Women’s Grand Masters Age Group Triathlete of the Year: Donna Smyers (Adamant, VT)
Honorable Mentions: Colleen De Reuck, Kathy Grady, Juliana Nievergelt, Susan Pierson
Men’s Grand Masters Age Group Triathlete of the Year: Greg Taylor (Yankton, S.D.)
Honorable Mentions: James Aust, Philip Friedman, Kim Norman, Kyle Welch
Celeste Callahan Women’s Great Grand Masters Age Group Triathlete of the Year: Carol Gephart (Hamilton, Mich.)
Honorable Mentions: Lorrie Beck, Barbara Matheson, Cande Olsen, Laura Sopheia
Men’s Great Grand Masters Age Group Triathlete of the Year: Mike Wien (Boulder, Colo.)
Honorable Mentions: Michael Orendorff, Robert Plant, Jim Sumara, John Towart
Women's Off-Road Age Group Triathlete of the Year: Deanna McCurdy (Littleton, Colo.)
Honorable Mentions: Andie Aagard, Julia Allred, Jill Sorenson
Men's Off-Road Age Group Triathlete of the Year: Michael Dorr (Avon, Colo.)
Honorable Mentions: Sullivan Middaugh, Anders Johnson
Women’s Junior Age Group Triathlete of the Year: Alexandra Poole (Durham, N.C.)
Honorable Mention: Freya McKinley
Men’s Junior Age Group Triathlete of the Year: Kyle Swenson (Rogers, Minn.)
Honorable Mention: Braxton Bokos