Matt Chrabot and Jasmine Oeinck each used convincing runs to pull away from the rest of the competitors and claim the mens and womens titles at the 2009 USA Triathlon Elite National Championship on Saturday.
It was the first championship win for both of the rising young stars of the sport.
Oeinck (Littleton, Colo. / Boulder, Colo.) had done well overseas in recent years, claiming two ITU U23 World Championship silver medals, but this time she made it count in her home country by surviving in the summer southern heat and outrunning Jenna Shoemaker and Hayley Peirsol to get her first triathlon title.
It was Peirsol who set the pace early by taking a 1:25 lead into the first transition. Peirsols typically strong swim in the 83-degree Black Warrior River set her up to lead the majority of the bike. She was finally caught at the start of the final of six laps by a chase group consisting of Oeinck, Shoemaker, Margaret Shapiro, Jennifer Spieldenner, Jillian Petersen, and Mary Beth Ellis.
Ellis was the first to fade. In obvious pain on the bike, the 2009 Pan American Confederation champion pulled out of the race with a hamstring injury. With pre-race favorite Ellis out, Oeinck took advantage, using a race best 35:14 run to seal the win in a time of 2:02:49. Shoemaker ran to second in 2:03:17, with Peirsol grabbing third in 2:04:29. Peirsol, who swam at nearby Auburn University, produced a strong run of 36:48.
Everyone did a really good job out there. It was a tough race, said the 24-year-old Oeinck. Hayley was so far ahead. She was phenomenal. I just tried to encourage everyone [in our group] that we could get her, if we kept working and plugged away. Its a really nice feeling to hold the finish line tape. Its pretty cool.
The race also featured athletes competing for the U23 national title. The womens crown went to Spieldenner, who finished fifth overall in the race and edged Lauren Goldstein-Kral (7th overall) and Amanda Hahn (8th overall).
I was happy where I finished overall, said Spieldenner. The U23 national title means a lot to me. Its very exciting to have it on my resume. Ive very excited to see what I can do [in the sport] over the next few years.
In the mens race, Chrabot (Colorado Springs, Colo. / Virginia Beach, Va.) exited the water with Dustin McLarty, Tim ODonnell and Brian Fleischmann, and that group built a slight advantage over a four-man chase pack of Matt Reed, Kevin Collington, Mark Fretta and Kyle Leto. By the middle of the 40k bike, the packs had merged and stayed together until the final lap, when Chrabot and Fleischmann broke away and put 25 seconds on the chasers.
Chrabot soon was by himself in front, with Reed and ODonnell in pursuit. The chase continued over the four-loop run, but the advantage remained steady for Chrabot as he ran to a race-best 29:49 10k run and a 34-second victory over ODonnell victory in 1:48:14. Heavy favorite and defending champion Matt Reed was third, 28 seconds behind ODonnell.
Going into last few laps I wanted to relax a bit and get things going on the run, said Chrabot. Brian [Fleischmann] is one of the most aggressive cyclists in the sport, so when Brian went, I knew he was going to attack all out, so I went with him. Then we just hit it on the run. It paid off in the end.
For Chrabot, the victory is the result of a month-long focus that he hopes to extend into the next few years as he aims for the 2012 Olympic Games.
I approached this race like the Olympic Trials. I took the last five weeks and just trained as hard as I could. I want to get ready for the 2012 Olympic Trials. Mentally and physically I wanted to put everything on the line for one race and just see how it goes. I put all my emotions and all my hard work into this race and I wanted to make sure I could put a lot of pressure on myself. This is just a practice for that.
The U23 crown went to McLarty (brother of U.S. female elite Sara McLarty). He finished seventh overall in the race, outpacing fellow U23 competitors Derek Oskutis (10th overall) and Nicholas Vandam (11th overall).
I was coming out here today with a realistic goal of making two laps on the bike with the leaders, because they are so strong. It worked out great, McLarty said. After two laps, the second group caught us, and we rested a bit, so that was enough for me to get back into the groove and I finished the bike with them. At that point my day was made. I was able to hold on for the 10k.
2009 USA Triathlon Elite Nationals
1. Jasmine Oeinck (Boulder CO) 2:02:49
2. Jenna Shoemaker (Boulder CO) 2:03:17
3. Hayley Peirsol (Tustin CA) 2:04:29
4. Margaret Shapiro (Herndon VA) 2:05:17
5. Jennifer Spieldenner (Findlay OH) 2:06:06
1. Matt Chrabot (Virginia Beach VA) 1:48:14
2. Tim ODonnell (Boulder CO) 1:48:48
3. Matt Reed (Boulder CO) 1:49:26
4. Mark Fretta (Portland OR) 1:50:01
5. Kevin Collington (Orlando FL ) 1:50:32