IRVING, Texas — Alex Arman, 34, (Boulder, Colo.) and Kirsten Sass, 43, (McKenzie, Tenn.) repeated as overall national champions in the Non-Drafting Standard-Distance Duathlon National Championships (10k run, 40k bike, 5k run), and the Age Group Mixed Relay Triathlon National Championships made its exciting debut on Saturday in Irving, Texas, as roughly 600 age group multisport athletes competed on the third day of the 2022 USA Triathlon Multisport National Championships Festival Presented by Toyota.
The third of four days of multisport racing, Saturday’s action at Levy Event Plaza saw more than 300 run-bike-run specialists race for national titles in the Non-Drafting Standard-Distance Duathlon National Championships and the opportunity to qualify to represent age group Team USA at 2023 World Triathlon Age Group World Championships.
Athletes raced a 10-kilometer run, 40k bike and 5k run course through the Las Colinas community, on a warm and windy day in Irving.
Arman broke the tape in the men’s race, taking the overall title in 1 hour, 51 minutes, 13 seconds. The victory is Arman’s third at Duathlon Nationals, as he also captured the Standard-Distance overall title in 2021 and in 2018. Racing in a strong field that took turns leading the bike, Arman pulled away on the second run to hold off Conrad Goeringer, 34, (Nashville, Tenn.) who took second in 1:51:27 and 35-39 age group winner Andrew Vos, 36, (Broomfield, Colo.), who took third in 1:51:38.
“It was probably the most fun race I’ve ever had. It was so tactical,” Arman said. “There were four of us, taking turns leading on the bike. When Conrad (Goeringer) went I knew I had to go with him. Conrad pushed it for the second lap and I was like, ‘If I don’t go, it’s over.’ I just tried to stay as close I could. The second run was all about patience. I knew it was going to be about attrition. It’s so hot, it’s humid, people are going to blow up. I just tried to hold on there at the end.”
Sass, the 2021 Standard-Distance national champion, turned in an impressive performance in the women’s race, clocking a winning time of 2:06:45 — 5 minutes ahead of second place Kristen Hetzel, 43, (Pacific Palisades, Calif.), who finished in 2:11:45. Steph Popelar, 55, (Elizabeth, Colo.), placed third in 2:12:20 en route to becoming the Female Grand Masters champion.
The national title is the 26th for Sass in her illustrious age group duathlon and triathlon career.
“You certainly don’t take these for granted,” said Sass, who last summer competed at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 as a guide for visually-impaired Paralympian Amy Dixon. She reflected on her experience in Tokyo. “Guiding is something I’m super passionate about. To be able to do that with Amy Dixon who put in so much work to get to Tokyo — that was so special to get to be there with her and achieve such a dream of hers. I absolutely love guiding and that was the pinnacle of my entire career.”
Popelar, who earned the women’s Grand Masters national title, praised the hospitality of Irving.
“The support that the city of Irving has offered has been second to none,” Popelar said.
Christian Evans, 61, (Glen Ellyn, Ill.), earned the men’s Grand Masters title. Sass won the women’s Masters title, while Benjamin Drezek, 47, (Denton, Texas) earned the men’s Masters title.
Billie Pate, 72, (Upland, Calif.) won the Athena 55+ national title. She’s attempting to race eight events over the course of the Multisport National Championships Festival, which will earn her the title of “Multisport Master,” awarded to all athletes who compete five or more races during the event.
Mike Savage, 60, (Geneva, Ill.), won the Clydesdale 60+ national title. Chris Worden, 44, (Indianapolis, Ind.), won the Clydesdale 40-59 national title, while Leslie Battle, 53, (Warwick, R.I.), earned the Athena 40-54 national title. Ashley Miller, 34, (Urbandale, Iowa) won the Athena 39 & Under national title.
Following the duathlon races, the afternoon session of action included the debut of the Age Group Mixed Relay Triathlon National Championships, an exciting, high-paced and spectator-friendly new National Championships format.
In the Mixed Relay, teams of four (in the order of man-woman-man-woman) compete, with each team member completing a 250m swim, 5k bike, 1.2k run triathlon before tagging their teammate. The Mixed Relay made its Olympic debut at last summer’s Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, and the U.S. earned the Olympic silver medal.
For many triathletes, Saturday’s Age Group Mixed Relay Triathlon National Championships was their first opportunity to race the format. Sixty-five teams competed on Saturday, with national titles awarded to teams, broken down into different brackets based on teams’ combined ages of each team’s four athletes. Spectators lined the race’s tag zone, cheering as athletes finished their leg to tag their teammate who ran from the grass near the shore to dive off the boat launch into Lake Carolyn.
The quartet of Anthony Didion, Jenna Haufler, 29, (Mill Valley, Calif.), Miguel Mattox, 27, (Mill Valley, Calif.) and Alex Leandri, 29, (Nashville, Tenn.) won the team title, as their team, “Working Triathlete,” broke the tape in a time of 1:08:16.
“It was a blast. I wouldn’t have done it with any other team than with these three. I was grimacing and then I hit the pavement (near the finish) and then I was like, ‘We did it!’ All I wanted to do was get to the finish and see these guys,” said Leandri, who enjoyed the opportunity to race the Mixed Relay. “This race brings everybody together. We’re all together cheering for the same race. We’re racing as a team. Whether you’re ahead or behind, everybody is there. We’re in the chutes together. I love this event.”
In the Clydesdale & Athena division, the team “Can’t Stop the Reign,” won the national title as Kevin Gaston, 39, (Atlanta, Ga.), Grace Collar, 44, (Shelburne Falls, Ma.), Lance Fargo, 56, (Ocean View, Del.), and Battle combined for a time of 1:33:30.
“The energy at the finish line was intense. Between the spectators and all of the other team members, there was a lot more of a collected investment of encouragement than you would normally see in a race,” Fargo said. “It was just way cool. In all my years of triathlon, this was the most fun I’ve ever had.”
Following the day’s racing events, USA Triathlon on Saturday evening hosted an Awards Ceremony and Celebration Lounge at the Texas Lottery Plaza. Open to athletes and the general public, each night’s Awards Ceremony features live music, race highlights on a jumbo inflatable screen, Mamma Tried Irving bar cart, jumbo lawn games and more. The local community is encouraged to join and participate.
The fourth day of multisport racing action begins with the Aquabike National Championships (1500m swim, 40k bike) and the non-championship Olympic-distance triathlon (1500m swim, 40k bike, 10k run), which both start at 7 a.m. The final race of the weekend is the Draft-Legal Sprint Duathlon National Championships (5k run, 20k bike, 3.3k run), which begins at 2 p.m.
Standard-Distance National Champions
10k run, 40k bike, 5k run
Male Overall: Alex Arman (Boulder, Colo.), 1:51:13
Female Overall: Kirsten Sass (McKenzie, Tenn.), 2:06:45
Male Masters: Benjamin Drezek (Denton, Texas), 1:55:32
Female Masters: Kirsten Sass (McKenzie, Tenn.), 2:06:45
Male Grand Masters: Christian Evans (Glen Ellyn, Ill.), 2:06:06
Female Grand Masters: Steph Popelar (Elizabeth, Colo.), 2:12:20
Clydesdale 60+: Mike Savage (Geneva, Ill.), 2:40:40
Athena 55+: Billie Pate (Upland, Calif.), 4:55:31
Clydesdale 40-59: Chris Worden (Indianapolis, Ind.), 2:27:49
Athena 40-54: Leslie Battle (Warwick, R.I.), 2:55:44
Athena 39 & Under: Ashley Miller (Urbandale, Iowa), 3:27:41
M15-19: Logan Talabock (Fort Worth, Texas), 2:15:14
F15-19: No competitors
M20-24: Johnathan Dolan (Atascadero, Calif.), 1:53:14
F20-24: Carolyn Hoover (Bethesda, N.Y.), 2:36:06
M25-29: Preston Newsome (Brooklyn, Colo.), 2:01:01
F25-29: Lotti Brinks (Austin, Texas), 2:13:22
M30-34: Alex Arman (Boulder, Colo.), 1:51:13
F30-34: Imelda Muller (Panama City Beach, Fla.), 2:18:20
M35-39: Andrew Vos (Broomfield, Colo.), 1:51:38
F35-39: Stacy Osmond (Naperville, Ill.), 2:19:00
M40-44: Stephen Eles (Boulder, Colo.), 1:57:46
F40-44: Kirsten Sass (McKenzie, Tenn.), 2:06:45
M45-49: Benjamin Drezek (Denton, Texas), 1:55:32
F45-49: Alison Raitt (Playa Del Rey, Calif.), 2:20:04
M50-54: Thomas Woods (Lincoln, Neb.), 1:57:23
F50-54: Pauline Allen (Fayetteville, Ark.), 2:14:08
M55-59: David Engstrom (Beaverton, Ore.), 1:59:50
F55-59: Steph Popelar (Elizabeth, Colo.), 2:12:20
M60-64: Christian Evans (Glen Ellyn, Ill.), 2:06:06
F60-64: Amy Rappaport (Califon, N.J.), 2:29:52
M65-69: Tom Resh (Redlands, Calif.), 2:17:43
F65-69: Colleen Rebant (Ovilla, Texas), 2:37:24
M70-74: Jean-Pierre Bacle (Alexandria, Va.), 2:29:41
F70-74: Sharon Gerl (Eugene, Ore.), 2:59:23
M75-79: David Fraser (Trinidad, Calif.) 2:26:08
F75-79: No competitors
M80-84: Lockett Wood (Lyons, Colo.), 3:33:28
F80-84: Sharon Roggenbuck (Hillsborough, N.C.), 4:01:44
Age Group Mixed Relay National Championships
4x 250m swim, 5k bike, 1.2k run
Overall Team Winner: Working Triathlete (Anthony Didion, Jenna Haufler, Miguel Mattox, Alex Leandri), 1:08:16
Overall Club: Working Triathlete (Anthony Didion, Jenna Haufler, Miguel Mattox, Alex Leandri), 1:08:16
Clydesdale & Athena: Can’t Stop the Reign (Kevin Gaston, Grace Coller, Lance Fargo, Leslie Battle), 1:33:30
100 & Under: Fort Worth TC (Hezekiah Martin, Ava Talabock, Hudson Hamilton, Peyton Hisel), 1:11:28
101-130: Working Triathlete (Anthony Didion, Jenna Haufler, Miguel Mattox, Alex Leandri), 1:08:16
131-160: Peak Multisport (Cameron Hamilton, Katie Gorczyca, Ken Axford, Alexandra Schwein), 1:09:04
161-190: Local Yokels (Ian Ray, Kara Brown, Shawn Bonsell, Chelsea Tiner), 1:13:43
191-220: Go Four It (Kirk Framke, Steph Popelar, Peter Valentyik, Alicia Caldwell), 1:12:49
221-250: Relay Fun (Dougin Walker, Jill Kralovanec, Tim Bradley, Celia Dubey), 1:16:33
251-280: Team Fab Four (Jim Aust, Tracy Disabato-Aust), 1:25:55
281-310: That 70ish Team USA (Jim McGinnis, Billie Pate, Kelvin Coppock, Rosalind Jarrett Sepulveda), 1:29:11
311 and over: Octogenarian (Arby Kitzman, Marylynne Caruso, Ralph Ward, June Black) 2:03:13