Youngsters "Bring It" to Southwest Region Junior Development Series

By Rachel Sears Casanta | Sept. 03, 2009, 7:47 p.m. (ET)

USAT-SW Jr Dev Series Logo
2009 marks the third year of the USA Triathlon Southwest Region Junior Development series.   The eight race series provides young triathletes an entry point into the sport and the opportunity to experience triathlon in its traditional, non-drafting format, officiated using USA triathlon rules.  Exposure to athletes of similar age and experience fosters friendships, camaraderie and healthy competition.

Each event in the series provides the event winners with awards as well as ranking points, which descend in value from first (100 points) through twentieth place (7 points).  The categories for the junior development series are Male Youth 13-15, Female Youth 13-15 and Junior Males 16-19 and Junior Female 16-19.  Age for racing category is determined by USAT rules (age as of Dec 31, 2009).

Lake HavasuThis year's USAT Southwest Region Junior Development Series kicked off with the Lake Havasu Sprint Triathlon on March 21.  Early series leaders were Paris Hasl (F13-15), Julie Miller (F16-19), Austin Lelles (M13-15) and Dylan Barr (M16-19).  No doubt these athletes had targets on their backs with seven races remaining on the series calendar!

The competition fired up as the series progressed with the Renegade Off Road Triathlon on April 4 and the Tempe Sprint Triathlon on May 17. Three races into the series Hanna Olney took the lead in the F13-15 category and Claire Moty was tied with Julie Miller for F16-19 due to Miller's win in Tempe.  On the boy's side, Reece Mortenson and Austin Lelles were tied for 1st for M13-15 while Dylan Barr maintained a slim lead over a fast charging Stephen Kuluris who bested Barr at the Tempe Sprint.

TBF Racing's Tri for Fun sprint triathlon on June 7th was the fifth event of the series and it attracted twenty-seven boys and eleven girlsTri for Fun Logo to compete on race day.  This impressive turnout of junior racers added a whole new crop of athletes to the series rankings.  When the dust settled, the race series leaders for the girls were Caitlyn Kellogg (F13-15) and Claire Moty (F16-19).  On the boys' side, a three way tie for first materialized for M13-15 with Austin Lelles, Reece Mortenson and Jake Dodge all in a dead heat at 100 points.  In the M16-19 category it was a different story as Stephen Kuluris (230 points) took a commanding lead over second ranked Dylan Barr (150 points).

Breath of Life LogoThe month of June was a busy month for athletes.  In addition to the Tribal Sprint Triathlon and Tri for Fun event, there were two additional series races with the Redondo Beach triathlon on June 14 and the Breath of Life Ventura triathlon on June 28.  Although there were no changes in the top rankings for the girls, brothers Michael and David Belcher racked up points at the Redondo Beach and Breath of Life events to take over first and second respectively for M13-15.  The Belcher's performances moved the trio of Lelles, Mortenson and Dodge into a three way tie for third.  For the M16-19 category, Stephen Kuluris and Dylan Barr maintained their first and second place rankings, but had reason to look over their shoulders.  Tim Brigantino came onto the radar landing in the third spot by virtue of his 2nd and 7th place finishes at Redondo Beach and Breath of Life. Brigantino now ranked third (110 points) and just fifteen points out of second place.
Santa Cruz Sprint Tri logo
The final race of the USAT Southwest Region Junior development series brought athletes to the beautiful town of Santa Cruz for Finishline Productions' Santa Cruz Sprint Triathlon.  In addition to being a double points event for the series, the Santa Cruz triathlon was also the designated USAT Southwest Region Youth and Junior Championship. 

After a brisk ocean swim, a two loop twelve mile bike course and a speedy 5k run, the series champions were crowned.  Nearly 120 athletes between the ages of 13 and 19 participated in the 2009 USAT Southwest Region Junior Development Series. Congratulations to all athletes!  A special thanks to Regional Athlete Development Coordinator Sharon Osgood and to each of the series event race directors.  Please visit the USA Triathlon Southwest Region website for the complete final rankings for the Junior Development series.

USA Triathlon Southwest Region Junior Development Series Champions

Female 13-15
1) Caityn Kellogg

Female 16-19
1) Claire Moty & Caitlin Scheder-Bieschin (tie)

Male 13-15
1) Michael Belcher & Austin Acosta (tie)

Male 16-19
1) Stephen Kuluris