Young Guns James-Heer, Tullis Win Sprint Distance Nationals

Clara James-Heer of Grand Rapids, Michigan and Sam Tullis of South Bend, Indiana led a youth quake in which four of the six overall podium finishers came from the 15-19 age group in the USA Triathlon Sprint Distance Age Group Nationals. The competitors splashed through huge puddles left over from the previous evening’s heavy rains and thunderstorms.

Sunday’s course consisted in a 750-meter swim in Lake Michigan, a 20-kilometer bike along the Daniel Hoan Memorial Bridge and Lake Freeway, and a 5-kilometer run through Veterans Park and Lincoln Memorial Drive.

In the women’s race, the top 3 overall finishers were under the age of 19. The 15-19 age group was the third wave of women to start. When James-Heer, 18-year-old Freya McKinley of The Woodlands, Texas and 15-year-old Ellison Wolfe of Columbia, Pennsylvania crossed the line within 32 seconds of one another they created a podium that would stand up for the rest of the day.

James-Heer’s 9:42 swim was the 15th-best swim of the entire field, including the men. Her run was the third-fastest of all the women, helped propel her to a 1:03:43 finish followed by McKinley (1:04:05) and Wolfe (1:04:15).

James-Heer already made her mark on the national level, winning the 2019 Youth Elite Nationals, the 2021 Draft-Legal Duathlon Nationals overall, and the 2021 Youth and Junior Nationals Mixed Relay title with MMTT Sammy’s Gold team.

“Looking at the previous race results I thought I would have a chance to be on the podium,” James-Heer told USA Triathlon media. “I want to keep going, maybe to college for triathlon, then Worlds, then the Olympics in a few years. I’m proud of the run because I had to take a week off from an injury.”

Ginger Reiner of Lincoln, Massachusetts won both Masters titles (Olympic distance on Saturday and Sprint distance on Sunday) as she did in 2019.

“COVID changed everything,” said Reiner, who finished in 1:07:29. “It made me realize that I love this sport for the sport, and that I was happy to continue training despite the lack of races. But it also made me realize how much I missed them,” she told USA Triathlon media.

Sam Tullis took the men’s overall title in a squeaker. Tullis finished in 56:29, just 0.59 of a second ahead of 20-24 division winner Ari Klau of West Hartford, Connecticut. Todd Buckingham of Big Rapids, Michigan, the men’s 30-34 winner, took third overall in 56:58.

Tullis came out of the swim behind eventual age group runner-up Braxton Bokos of Oak Brook, Illinois, but caught him midway through the 20k bike.

“I know Bokos, I raced against him last weekend, and his swim is phenomenal,” Tullis told USA Triathlon media. “So, the plan was to minimize the gap he had on me coming out of the water. And then to stay with him on the bike, [and] open up as big a gap as I could on the run. This is a big moment for me.”

Second-place overall finisher Klau, a former NCAA Division I runner at the University of Virginia, is new to triathlon after an injury led him to cycling as a form of cross-training.

Ginger Reiner of Lincoln, Massachusetts (F40-44) Tony Schiller of Eden Prairie Minnesota (M60-64) and Sharon Johnson of Andover, Massachusetts (F60-64) successfully defended their Sprint-distance national titles from 2019. Reiner and Schiller also swept their respective age group national titles on both Saturday and Sunday, as did Minori Minagawa of Dublin, Ohio F25-29) and Christian Waterstraat of Naperville, Illinois, (M45-49).

Several Challenged Teams from the Wisconsin chapter of myTEAM TRIUMPH took part in the PC Open wave for adaptive athletes. myTEAM TRIUMPH is an inclusive organization that pairs challenged athletes with an “Angel” so they can complete endurance events as a team.

“We kind of do the work for them and they give us the spirit to keep going,” Brian McWilliams, Angel for athlete Jacob VanDenBerg, told USA Triathlon media. “One thing with Jacob, we’ve been doing this for eight or nine years, and just to see how he has blossomed.”

The fastest PC Open finishers were Ben Stuart of Grand Rapids, Michigan who finished in 1:27:58, and Kayla Kudick of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, who crossed the line in 1:30:35.

Toyota USA Triathlon Sprint Distance Age Group Championship
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
August 8, 2021
S 750m / B 20k / R 5k

Overall Female: Clara James-Heer (Grand Rapids MI) 1:03:43
Overall Male:Sam Tullis (South Bend IN) 56:29
Masters Female: Ginger Reiner (Lincoln MA) 1:07:29
Masters Male: Andrew Holland (Erie PA) 1:01:38
Grand Masters Female:Katie McCully (Eastham MA) 1:13:37
Grand Masters Male:Tony Schiller (Eden Prairie MN) 1:06:48
F17-19: Clara James-Heer (Grand Rapids MI) 1:03:43
M17-19: Sam Tullis (South Bend IN) 56:29
F20-24: Brooke Kelley (Keeseville N.Y.) 1:05:58
M20-24: Matthew Guenter (Boulder CO) 57:39
F25-29: Minori Minagawa (Dublin OH) 1:08:23
M25-29: Ari Klau (West Hartford CT) 56:30
F30-34: Michelle Stratton (Naperville IL) 1:05:00
M30-34: Todd Buckingham (Big Rapids MI) 56:58
F35-39: Jennifer Santoyo (Burien WA) 1:08:02
M 35-39: Ryan Giuliano (Oakwood Hills IL) 59:21
F40-44: Ginger Reiner (Lincoln MA) 1:07:29
M40-44: Andrew Holland (Erie PA) 1:01:38
F45-49: Elizabeth Waterstraat (Naperville IL) 1:11:11
M45-49: Christian Waterstraat (Naperville IL) 1:02:30
F50-54: Becky Paige (Maynard MA) 1:09:56
M50-54: Peter Valentyik (Boulder CO) 1:02:18
F55-59: Katie McCully (Eastham MA) 1:13:37
M55-59: Dougin Walker (Tampa FL) 1:06:04
F60-64: Sharon Johnson (Andover MA) 1:15:19
M60-64: Tony Schiller (Eden Prairie MN) 1:06:48
F65-69: Susan Griffin-Kaklikian (Colorado Springs CO) 1:20:10
M65-69: Phillip Friedman (Erie PA) 1:11:54
F70-74: Cande OIsen (Morristown N.J.) 1:30:46
M70-74: Mile Wien (Boulder CO) 1:19:46
F75-79: Bobbe Greenberg (Highland Park IL) 1:38:46
M75-79: Simon Butterworth (Lafayette CO) 1:26:58
F80-84: June Black (Austin TX) 2:08:10
M80-84: Arby Kitzman (Morro Bay CA) 1:36:37
M85-89: Kenneth Fleischhacker (Littleton CO) 1:44:44
Time to Tri Open Female 15-39: Samantha Brooker (Milwaukee WI) 1:25:18
Time to Tri Open Male 15-39: Benjamin Babcock (New Berlin WI) 1:11:22
Time to Tri Open Female 40-59: Michelle Richards (Madison WI) 1:23:36
Time to Tri Open Male 40-59: Joseph Tally (Fairport N.Y.) 1:20:30
Time to Tri Open Female 60+: Linda Johns (Portland OR) 1:42:33
Time to Tri Open Male 60+: Chris O’Donnell (Wexford PA) 1:20:54
PC Open Female: Kayla Kudick (Sturgeon WI) 1:30:35
PC Open Male: Ben Stuart (Grand Rapids MI) 1:27:58