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August 22, 2009 (Tuscaloosa, AL) – A couple of youngsters crashed the party with surprise victories at the 2009 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships on Saturday. A year after two 37-year-olds won overall national titles in Portland, Ore., two athletes from the 20-24 age group took the top podium spots.
The athletes had to contend with an unexpected challenge – a strong river current, which resulted in slower than expected swim times. Heavy rains earlier this week caused the city to open a flood gate, causing the strong current, which was more of an issue for the competitors than the heat and humidity (mid-80s and 40 percent humidity) of this southern college town.
Joe Maloy, a 24-year-old from Brighton, Mass., edged newcomer Sean Jefferson, 27, (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) with a time of 1 hour, 57 minutes and 23 seconds. In the women’s race, 20-year-old Kaitlin Shiver of Satellite Beach, Fla., posted a time of 2:08:13 and finished over 2 minutes ahead of runner-up Lindsay Woodward, 24, (Gainesville, Fla.) and over 5 minutes ahead of the third-place finisher.
In an era where athletes are aging gracefully and staying competitive longer (see Lance Armstrong and Dara Torres, among others) this day belonged to triathlon’s up-and-coming athletes. Eight of the top 10 male finishers and six of the top 10 women were under 30 years old.
Shiver, who runs track and cross country at the University of Florida, surprised even herself when she found out about her victory.
“This is incredible,” said Shiver. “I came here and thought that if I got top 5 in my age group, I’d be happy. I’ve never been to a race this big. I just do races locally and my coach at the University of Florida says that I have to be a runner during the year, so during the summer I get to be a triathlete a little bit.”
Maloy, who swam for Boston College, was ecstatic about his win, especially in light of his recent triathlon mishaps.
“I always hope to win no matter what the race or what the competition,” he said. “But this is my first year competing in triathlon, so I’m getting used to all the rules. In Philly I was penalized 6 minutes because I didn’t know all the bike rules. So I keep learning every race I go to. There’s just so much more that goes into this sport.”
Over 1,000 athletes competing from 46 states can also attest to what goes into this sport. Countless hours spent training all came down to one event with national titles and Team USA spots on the line. Athletes earned national titles in 28 age groups with the top 18 in each category qualifying to compete at the 2010 ITU World Championships in Budapest, Hungary.
Jeff Dyrek, the National Events director at USA Triathlon, talked about what it takes to put on an event like this, which included a pre-race expo, awards ceremony, a post-race food tent, big screen live video and more, for the athletes.
“The support from the city of Tuscaloosa allows this to become a great event,” Dyrek said. “We do this event to showcase our annual members and the best in the nation. That’s why we go so big for this event.”
Following the Age Group National Championship, the elites took the stage for the USA Triathlon Elite National Championship where Matt Chrabot and Jasmine Oeinck were crowned national champions.