August 19, 2009 (Tuscaloosa, AL) – Matt Reed has to be considered the frontrunner heading into this weekend’s USA Triathlon Elite National Championship in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
He has three things in his favor.
The 33-year-old from Boulder, Colo., is the defending national champion, he is in contention for the USA Triathlon Twenty-12 Elite Series title (which includes $10,000 in prize money), and he’s racing in a city where he got one of the biggest wins of his career. His 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials victory in Tuscaloosa last year gave Reed a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team.
“I plan to bring my ‘A’ game and strength to Tuscaloosa. This city will always have a special place in my heart,” said Reed. “I am glad to be ‘coming home’ to Tuscaloosa. After all, I know how it feels to win there and win big. That will drive me hard on Saturday.”
Reed is the only male or female athlete on the start lists for Saturday’s races to have won an elite national title (2004 and 2008). Other past champions who are still active in the sport are either dealing with injury or have schedule conflicts that are keeping them from competing.
In the men’s race, Tim O’Donnell has had a great 2009 in longer distance races and should battle with Reed for the top spot in Tuscaloosa. Others to watch include two veterans, past world No. 1 Mark Fretta and multi-time national runner up Brian Fleischmann. The old guard will be challenged by several young studs who have been making their marks on the international scene: Ethan Brown, Matt Chrabot, and Kevin Collington.
Greg Billington and collegiate stars Derek Oskutis and Nicholas Vandam will lead the U23 contenders.
With the door wide open on the women’s side for both the national and series titles, look for a competitive race featuring athletes who have been on the scene for the past few years and others who have steadily been climbing through the ranks.
Mary Beth Ellis has had a solid season, with a win at the ITU PATCO Championship among the highlights, and should be the one to beat. Jenna Shoemaker and Jasmine Oeinck should also be considered contenders, and don’t overlook newcomer Hayley Peirsol, who can easily put over a minute on the entire field during the opening 1.5k swim.
Youngsters Lauren Goldstein-Kral and 2009 collegiate champion Jessica Broderick are making the move to the Olympic distance and could compete with Jennifer Spieldenner for the U23 title.
Saturday’s elite races feature a 1.5k swim, 40k bike, 10k run that will start in the Black Warrior River and wind its path through the city and onto the campus of the University of Alabama. A $30,000 prize purse is on the line for the elites.
Earlier in the day, more than 1,000 age groupers will compete for their own titles and a chance to represent the U.S. at the 2010 ITU World Championship in Budapest, Hungary.