Kemper and Haskins win national titles.
LONG BEACH, Calif. – Hunter Kemper didn’t break through the tape to celebrate his victory in the men’s division of USA Triathlon’s Elite National Championships at The Beach Triathlon in Long Beach on Sunday morning.
Instead, he held it skyward for all to see. The 30-year-old had just earned his sixth national title, the most-ever by an American male triathlete.
Sarah Haskins had to contain her joy a second or so after winning her first title. Then she grabbed her roommate Sara McLarty and friend Lauren Groves (Canada) for hugs and to pose for photos after they placed first, second and third, respectively.
The event, second of five races of the Haul to the Great Wall Series, serves as a 2008 Olympic Trials qualifier. Athletes accumulate points to earn a berth to the trials and eventually the games in Beijing, China. The race also served as an International Triathlon Union Continental Cup event.
But on Sunday, under cloudy skies, Kemper, ranked No. 1 in the U.S. and No. 2 in the world, finished ahead of Andy Potts, also rated the world top-10, to earn his sixth national title.
Kemper crossed the finish line at 1 hour, 46 minutes, 53 seconds. Potts (1:47:15) and fellow American Matt Reed (1:47.55) swept the next two spots. Victor Plata, who competed at the 2004 Olympics with Kemper and Potts, finished 10th (1:50:16) in a field of 55.
“It always feels good to win a national title,” Kemper said. “This is what you race for. Andy Potts had a great day and so did Matthew Reed.”
Kemper, who won U.S. national titles in 1998, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2006, trailed Potts slightly coming off the second swim lap to the cycling portion of the race. Both fell to 11 and 12, respectively. But Kemper out-legged everyone in the home stretch 10 kilometer race.
“We have never had such a big field, which is nice to see because usually there’s only 15 guys,” said Potts, who finished runner-up at the nationals for the third time. “I (went all out) in the swim from the go. I figured I’d get people out of their comfort zone earlier in the morning than they wanted to.”
On the women’s side, Haskins (1:58:43), McLarty (1:59:41) and Groves of Canada (2:00:26) out-shone everyone else.
After swimming in water temperatures of 67 degrees, and a bike run, Haskins separated herself from McLarty over the run portion of the race to surprise a field that included top contenders Laura Bennett (No. 2 in the world), Julie Swail, and last year’s national champion Becky Lavelle.
McLarty, who finished second in the elite women’s division, also won the Under-23 title ahead of Jasmine Oeinck of Colorado Springs and earned a spot for the U23 World Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland, as did Huerta in the male division.
“The bike was more challenging,” Haskins said. “Once you are out there, it’s pretty windy. There were a few climbs that took your legs out. With (McLarty and I) working together, it was more like a time trial. I gave it everything I had.”
After Oeinck fell off the pace during the swim, Haskins and McLarty rode and ran tactically to the top two spots.
“Sarah (Haskins) is an amazing cyclist, and I definitely knew she would be an ally on the bike,” said McLarty, who placed fourth in the 400 freestyle at the 2004 Olympic Swim Trials in Long Beach.
“(I knew) she would out-run me. I was OK with that. I just wanted to run the course and have a strong finish. I think I did that. This is my second year as a professional athlete. And I have made progress. This is my best finish so far.”
USA Triathlon is the national governing body for triathlon, duathlon, aquathlon and winter triathlon in the United States. USAT sanctions 1,800 races and connects with more than 65,000 members each year, making it the largest multi-sport organization in the world.
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Related Event: 2006 Long Beach ITU Triathlon Pan American Cup
|Results: Elite Men|