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April 30, 2011 (Oro Valley, AZ) – Nicole LaSelle and Matthew Russell captured the elite national titles, and Gail Kattouf and Dave Slavinski were the top overall age-groupers Saturday at USA Triathlon’s 2011 Duathlon National Championship.
Russell (Austin, Texas) claimed his second career elite duathlon national title and first since 2008 with a time of 1 hour, 22 minutes, 38 seconds on the 5-kilometer run, 35-kilometer bike and 5-kilometer run course.
Competing at Duathlon Nationals for the first time, LaSelle (Dayton, Ohio) was the second female elite to cross the finish line in 1:36:08. Germany’s Angela Axmann, who resides in Phoenix, Ariz., was the overall women’s winner in 1:34:10.
Russell was sixth – and 35 seconds off the pace – after the first run. He grabbed the lead on the bike and held on to the advantage with a 17:03 5k on the second run. He finished nearly three minutes ahead of Canada’s Lionel Sanders, who was the No. 2 overall finisher in 1:25:23. Justin Hurd (Boulder, Colo.) finished third overall in 1:25:54, and Joshua Merrick (Alamosa, Colo.) crossed the line fourth overall in 1:26:16 to round out the national championship podium.
“I wasn’t sure where my speed was,” said Russell, who has raced four out of the last five weekends. “My strength is my bike right now, so I pulled away and that’s where I got the win – off the bike.” Russell caught the leaders on the first 2-3 miles of the bike and slowly pulled away heading into T2.
LaSelle held the lead at T1 with an opening 5k split of 18:05. She was two minutes off the pace of Axmann on the bike, but closed with the fastest second run with a split of 19:41. “It feels pretty amazing to go out there and run to the best of your ability, regardless of place,” said LaSelle. “I felt that I competed to the best of my ability, and that’s all you can ask for.”
Last year’s champion Marisa Asplund (Durango, Colo.) was third overall in 1:37:42, and Courtenay Brown (Boulder, Colo.) finished fourth overall in 1:39:25 to grab spots on the U.S. championship podium.
More than 550 age-groupers were on the start list Saturday with Kattouf (Greenville, S.C.) and Slavinski (Point Pleasant, N.J.) earning their second overall national titles of 2011. Both athletes were victorious at the 2011 USA Triathlon Long Course Duathlon National Championship on March 27 in Pelham, Ala., and carried that momentum into today’s performances.
Kattouf, who also claimed the women’s 35-39 title, finished more than two minutes clear of the field with a time of 1:37:00, which would have placed third among the women’s elites. Her 55:33 bike split proved to be the difference. “I settled back (on the first run) because I know I have a strong bike,” Kattouf said. “I figured if I could put together a strong run off the bike that I’d be in good position.”
Women’s 30-34 winner Kara Middendorf (Tucson, Ariz.) was the No. 2 overall finisher in 1:30:30, and Lisa Mueller (South Bend, Ind.), also of the 30-34 age group, was third overall in 1:40:34.
The men’s side was tightly contested with Slavinski edging overall runner-up and 25-29 champion Jesson Baumgartner (Waukee, Iowa), who finished in 1:26:34, by 20 seconds. Eneas Freyre (Norwalk, Conn.) was third overall and claimed the 35-39 title in 1:27:03. Slavinski also earned the male masters title and the 40-44 age group crown.
“It’s inspiring to be able to compete and have success in big national events. It just makes me more and more hungry,” Slavinski said. “I want to prove it on the national stage – USA Triathlon puts on a great event – and I want to go and do the same thing at the world event.”
The top overall paraduathlon finisher was Tommy Knapp (Laguna Beach, Calif.), who captured the TRI-4 category title in 1:45:15. “What’s so fun is the athletes just all welcome everyone, and when you get out there everyone’s going head to head,” Knapp said.
Kirsten Chapman (Edmond, Okla.) was the female masters winner, while Patty Peoples-Resh (Redlands, Calif.) and Steve Ruckert (Woodbine, Md.) earned the grand masters titles. In all, 25 age group national champions were crowned.
In addition to chasing national titles, age-group athletes also were competing for spots on Team USA for the 2011 ITU Short Course Duathlon World Championships in Gijon, Spain, on Sept. 24-25. The top 18 finishers in each age group, rolling down to 25th place, earned a Team USA berth. Team USA is comprised of amateur athletes who represent the United States at each ITU World Championship event.
The top four U.S. elite finishers earned a spot on the American squad for the 2011 ITU Elite Short Course Duathlon World Championships.
Duathlon Nationals also will be held in Tucson/Oro Valley in 2012.