Tempe, Ariz. — The University of Colorado’s Michelle Mehnert and the University of Arizona’s Ben Kanute raced to Olympic-distance titles at the USA Triathlon Collegiate National Championships on Saturday at Tempe Beach Park.
Mehnert, who is in her first year of representing Colorado, crossed the finish line in 2:01:13, more than a minute clear of the field. California’s Erika Erickson finished second for the second straight day with a time of 2:02:28, and San Diego State’s Brittany Braden finished in 2:03:28 for third.
Mehnert was second out of the water, following California’s Shelley Harper, and the two had a solid lead as they headed out on the bike course. By the 20k mark, Mehnert had moved into the lead and then held off Erickson and Braden to finish atop the podium.
“I knew the Cal girls would be out fast in the swim,” said Mehnert, a former Illinois swimmer. “Training in Colorado on the hills, I knew this course catered to my skills. It seemed like the perfect course to do well on for me, so I tried to capitalize on that.”
Mehnert’s win helped the University of Colorado add another team title to their collection, the fourth in a row since 2011 and the fourteenth title for the team since 1994. Mehnert becomes the eighth Buffalo to claim an individual title in the event.
Colorado also won the men’s team title and the women’s team award went to California, while the Elite Triathlon Academy at UC-Colorado Springs bested the Mixed-Team Relay field.
Colorado scored 3,926 combined points, edging out second-place team California by only two points. The CU Buffs have been dominant since 2010 and have now taken four consecutive team awards back to Boulder. California scored 3,924 points, and UCLA was third with 3,727.
The Colorado men had three finishers in the top eight, scoring 1,986 points for yet another men’s championship. California earned runners-up honors with 1,926 points, and Michigan took third place with 1,897 points.
Erika Erickson and her pair of second-place finishes propelled the California women to the top of the standings with 1,998 points. Colorado was second with 1,940 and the U.S. Military Academy scored 1,915 for third place.
Erickson also won the combined award for her performances in the Draft-Legal Collegiate Championship on Friday and the Olympic-distance championship on Saturday. Ben Kanute from Arizona locked up the combined award on men’s side with his back-to-back titles in the individual events.
The Elite Triathlon Academy at University of Colorado Colorado Springs was nearly three minutes faster than the rest of the field in the Mixed-Team Relay, the final event of the Collegiate Nationals weekend. Avery Evenson, Luke Farkas, Johanna Gartman and Kevin McDowell combined their talents to finish in 1:06:15. California was second in 1:09:07, and U.S. Naval Academy was third with a time of 1:10:05.
“It was amazing to come out here in this team atmosphere and participate as a team,” McDowell said. “That’s not always a triathlon thing. You have a team, and you train with them, but to actually finish as a team and do this altogether when everyone has just as important of a role, it’s just one of the best things you could ask for.”
In all, 1,015 athletes representing 108 schools competed in the Olympic-distance Collegiate National Championship, an event that first began at the Wildflower Triathlon in the early 1990s.
USA Triathlon Collegiate National Championships
Men’s Overall Olympic-Distance Championship
1. Ben Kanute (Arizona), 1:46:36
2. Michael Poole (USF), 1:47:08
3. Alex Libin (Iowa), 1:47:15
Women’s Overall Olympic-Distance Championship
1. Michelle Mehnert (Colorado), 2:01:13
2. Erika Erickson (California), 2:02:28
3. Brittany Braden (San Diego State), 2:03:28
Men’s Overall Draft-Legal Collegiate Championship
1. Ben Kanute (Arizona), 58:26
2. Luke Farkas (UCCS), 58:40
3. Yoni Doron-Peters (Cal), 59:06
Women’s Overall Draft-Legal Collegiate Championship
1. Erin Jones (UCCS), 1:04:00
2. Erika Erickson (California), 1:04:23
3. Johanna Gartman (UCCS), 1:04:38
Men’s Combined Award
1. Ben Kanute (Arizona), 550
2. Yoni Doron-Peters (California), 539
3. Ryan Petry (Arizona State), 535
Women’s Combined Award
1. Erika Erickson (California), 548
2. Samantha Morrison (USAFA), 543
3. Lauren Lewis (Texas A&M), 528
Overall Team Standings
1. Colorado, 3,926
2. California, 3,924
3. UCLA, 3,727
4. U.S. Naval Academy, 3,710
5. Arizona, 3,604
Women’s Team Standings
1. California, 1,998
2. Colorado, 1,940
3. U.S. Military Academy, 1,915
4. UCLA, 1,915
5. U.S. Naval Academy, 1,908
Men’s Team Standings
1. Colorado, 1,986
3. Michigan, 1,897
5. Iowa, 1,847
Mixed Team Relay
1. University of Colorado Colorado Springs, 1:06:15
2. California Relay A, 1:09:07
3. U.S. Naval Academy, 1:10:05
Armed Services Team Champions
U.S. Naval Academy
Team Spirit Award
University of Southern California