Kirsten Sass, Morgan Pearson Claim Overall Sprint-Distance Titles at Age Group Nationals

By USA Triathlon | Aug. 13, 2017, 1:59 p.m. (ET)

OMAHA, Neb. — Morgan Pearson (Boulder, Colo.) collected a national title in his first-ever triathlon, while Kirsten Sass (McKenzie, Tenn.) earned her second victory in as many days on Sunday at the USA Triathlon Age Group Sprint National Championships.

Sunday’s race, held at Levi Carter Park in Omaha, featured a 750-meter swim, 20-kilometer bike and 5-kilometer run. Athletes started the race in a light rain shower this morning, but the overcast conditions provided some cooler temperatures for the more than 1,200 competitors.

For women’s overall champion Sass (McKenzie, Tenn., F35-39), the sprint-distance win was the cherry on top of a weekend that also included her first-ever Olympic-distance overall national title.

“I wasn’t really sure how close I was to the overall, but my dad was out there saying, ‘Every second counts!’” said Sass, who was also last year’s overall sprint-distance champion. “I wasn’t expecting the rain, so that’s where the mental aspect comes in, just finding your own zone, enjoying the day and seeing all the amazing athletes that are out there.”

Second place overall went to Kearci Smith (Plano, Texas, F25-29). Smith was the first woman across the finish line this morning, as she started in an earlier wave than Sass. For nearly an hour, she waited to see if Sass would come through the finish with a faster time. Ultimately, Sass edged her younger competitor by 34 seconds, finishing in 1 hour, 6 minutes, 50 seconds compared to Smith’s 1:07:24.

Ali Brauer (Boulder, Colo.) took third overall in 1:07:33, earning the women’s 20-24 national title in the process. In her first year competing in triathlon, Brauer also had a top-five finish at the USA Triathlon Collegiate Club National Championships in April.

“I swam and ran [at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon], and when I went to grad school at the University of Colorado I was looking for a team to join,” Brauer said. “Being a swimmer and a runner, I thought I might as well try biking. I’ve done more this year than I ever thought I would be able to. I had some big goals, but it’s just crazy to be achieving some of them already.”

Pearson was the breakout star on the men’s side, becoming an overall national champion in his first-ever triathlon. An NCAA Division I runner at the University of Colorado, Pearson was introduced to triathlon through the USA Triathlon Collegiate Recruitment Program. He secured the overall victory and the men’s 20-24 national title with a sub-15 minute 5k run, breaking the tape in a finishing time of 58:08.

“I wanted to win — I didn’t know how the bike would go, but I knew my run would be pretty quick, and I had one of the faster swims,” Pearson said. “I came here yesterday to watch, and there were lots of people. There were fewer today because of the weather, but overall it seems like people are pretty stoked about this event, so that makes it fun.”

Kevin Denny (Lees Summit, Mo., M25-29) and Evan Culbert (Johnston, Iowa, M20-24) took second and third overall for the men, finishing in 59:53, and 1:00:09, respectively.

Andy Krueger (Portland, Ore.) finished fourth overall in 1:00:13 and took the men’s 15-19 victory — his first time earning the age-group national champion title. Krueger trains with the Strive Junior Triathlon Team in Portland, Oregon, and had the opportunity to talk mental strategy with Olympic gold medalist Gwen Jorgensen earlier this year.

“Today I had this terrific race where everything went perfectly,” Krueger said. “I raced at Junior Elite Nationals in West Chester, Ohio, last weekend, and didn’t have the race I wanted, so I came to Omaha with some extra motivation. I used to go into races with the goal of a podium or a top-10 finish, and I was so focused on the people that were ahead of me that I would screw up my own race. So I went into today with three personal goals that, even if I was in last place, I could still accomplish: one for the swim, one for the bike and one for the run. I executed those three goals, and it turned into an awesome performance.”

In total, 30 age-group national champions were crowned on Sunday, with athletes ranging in age from 15 to 88. Nine athletes defended their titles from 2016, including Sass (F35-39), Addison Smith (Knoxville, Tenn., F15-19), James Hallberg (Longmont, Colo., M40-44), Lauren Jensen (Muskego, Wis., F50-54), Kelly Dippold (Olathe, Kan., F55-59), Lee Walther (Oklahoma City, Okla., M55-59), Lois Leon (Miami, Fla., F75-79), William Marshall (Santa Rosa, Calif., M75-79) and Molly Hayes (Bozeman, Mont., F85+). About 400 competitors on Sunday’s start list also raced in the Olympic-Distance National Championships on Saturday.

The top-six finishers in each age group and gender earned the opportunity to represent Team USA next year in the draft-legal ITU Age Group Triathlon Sprint World Championships, which will be held in Gold Coast, Australia.

“When I first started doing tris, I saw people in the USA kit, and I wanted to be at that level,” said Michael G’Sell (St. Louis, Mo., M20-24), who is headed to his first Age Group World Championships this September in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. “Now that I’ve worked toward it and I have the kit, I feel like it’s really special to be able to race in it.”

Athletes will have one additional opportunity to qualify for the sprint-distance world championships at the Age Group Draft-Legal World Qualifier, set for Oct. 7 in Sarasota, Florida. For more information about qualifying for Team USA, visit usatriathlon.org/teamusa.

Full recaps, photo galleries and archived live stream video from the two days of racing at Age Group Nationals are available at usatriathlon.org/agnc17coverage.

2017 USA Triathlon Sprint National Championships
750m swim, 20k bike, 5k run
Sprint National Champions — Complete Results


Overall Female: Kirsten Sass (McKenzie, Tenn.), 1:06:50
Overall Male: Morgan Pearson (Boulder, Colo.), 58:08
Masters Female: Stacy Sweetser (Amherst, N.H.), 1:09:50
Masters Male: Scott Erba (Winona Lake, Ind.), 1:03:56
Grand Masters Female: Kelly Dippold (Olathe, Kan.), 1:12:12
Grand Masters Male: Lincoln Murdoch (Omaha, Neb.), 1:09:03
F15-19: Addison Smith (Knoxville, Tenn.), 1:08:02
M15-19: Andy Krueger (Portland, Ore.), 1:00:13
F20-24: Ali Brauer (Boulder, Colo.), 1:07:33
M20-24: Morgan Pearson (Boulder, Colo.), 58:08
F25-29: Kearci Smith (Plano, Texas), 1:07:24
M25-29: Kevin Denny (Lees Summit, Mo.), 59:53
F30-34: Linzie Hebert (Choudrant, La.), 1:11:03
M30-34: Wade Cruser (Sauk Rapids, Minn.), 1:02:45
F35-39: Kirsten Sass (McKenzie, Tenn.), 1:06:50
M35-39: Michael Boehmer (Boulder, Colo.), 1:03:09
F40-44: Stacy Sweetser (Amherst, N.H.), 1:09:50
M40-44: James Hallberg (Longmont, Colo.), 1:04:10
F45-49: Celia Dubey (Tarpon Springs, Fla.), 1:13:33
M45-49: Scott Erba (Winona Lake, Ind.), 1:03:56
F50-54: Lauren Jensen (Muskego, Wis.), 1:12:01
M50-54: Brian Francis (Ann Arbor, Mich.), 1:04:00
F55-59: Kelly Dippold (Olathe, Kan.), 1:12:12
M55-59: Lee Walther (Oklahoma City, Okla.), 1:06:44
F60-64: Sharon Johnson (Andover, Mass.), 1:17:52
M60-64: Lincoln Murdoch (Omaha, Neb.), 1:09:03
F65-69: Missy Lestrange (Visalia, Calif.), 1:24:46
M65-69: Kevin Simmons (Lake Mary, Fla.), 1:15:57
F70-74: Paula Larsen (Delafield, Wis.), 1:35:18
M70-74: Simon Butterworth (Lafayette, Colo.), 1:21:54
F75-79: Lois Leon (Miami, Fla.), 1:43:04
M75-79: William Marshall (Santa Rosa, Calif.), 1:30:34
F80-84: Sheila Isaacs (Shoreham, N.Y.), 2:01:18
M80-84: Bob Palmatier (El Cajon, Calif.), 1:55:37
F85+: Molly Hayes (Bozeman, Mont.), 2:51:13
M85+: Wayne Fong (Chatsworth, Calif.), 2:29:59

About USA Triathlon

USA Triathlon is proud to serve as the National Governing Body for triathlon, as well as duathlon, aquathlon, aquabike, winter triathlon, off-road triathlon and paratriathlon in the United States. Founded in 1982, USA Triathlon sanctions more than 4,300 races and connects with nearly 500,000 members each year, making it the largest multisport organization in the world. In addition to its work with athletes, coaches, and race directors on the grassroots level, USA Triathlon provides leadership and support to elite athletes competing at international events, including International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Championships, Pan American Games and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. USA Triathlon is a proud member of the ITU and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC).

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