Top U.S. athletes honored by the sport’s National Governing Body
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — With International Triathlon Union World Championship Series podium finisher Sarah Groff and Pan American Games silver medalist Manuel Huerta leading the way, USA Triathlon today announced its 2011 Elite Athletes of the Year as selected by the USA Triathlon Athlete Advisory Council (AAC).
“2011 was a year filled with many incredible triathlon performances. The AAC carefully examined the résumés and results of all the nominees, and is proud to honor these exceptional athletes. With the quality of nominees, the selections were no easy task. The AAC congratulates all the 2011 winners,” said Barrett Brandon, chair of the USA Triathlon Athlete Advisory Council.
Groff (Hanover, N.H.) and Huerta (Miami, Fla.) earned Olympic/ITU Athlete of the Year accolades. After being slowed by injury for much of 2010, Groff became the first-ever U.S. athlete to earn a spot on the series podium in the three-year history of the ITU World Championship Series in 2011. In addition to qualifying for the 2012 Olympic Games with a seventh-place finish in London, Groff added a third-place finish in Kitzbühel, Austria, and she totaled four top-seven WCS finishes on the year.
Huerta capped his 2011 season with a runner-up finish at the Pan American Games in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. He finished the year as the No. 3 American in the ITU WCS rankings and was the top U.S. men’s performer at the London and Kitzbühel WCS stops. Additionally, Huerta recorded four top-16 finishes in ITU World Cup events.
Long-distance standouts Mary Beth Ellis (Boulder, Colo.) and Jordan Rapp (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) claimed Non-Olympic/ITU Athlete of the Year honors. Ellis enjoyed a breakout season in 2011 by winning three Ironman events over an eight-week span and placing 15th at the Ironman World Championship.
After being injured when struck by a car while cycling in March 2010, Rapp completed his comeback story last year with victories at Ironman Canada and the ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championships.
Up-and-coming athletes Kelly Whitley (Geneva, Ill.) and A.J. Baucco (Willoughby Hills, Ohio) were named Rookies of the Year. In addition to snagging Junior Triathlete of the Year honors earlier this week, Whitley claimed rookie accolades for her debut on the professional circuit, which produced three top-seven ITU Pan American Cup finishes.
Following an amateur win at Ironman 70.3 Florida, Baucco notched four top-15 elite finishes in 2011. His top showings were a fourth-place effort at TriStar111 Minnesota and a ninth-place finish at Galveston 5i50.
Under-23 Athlete of the Year accolades went to 2011 under-23 national champions Kaitlin Shiver (Melbourne, Fla.) and Greg Billington (Colorado Springs, Colo.). Shiver, who was fourth at the ITU Under-23 World Championships, also was the runner-up in the 2011 USA Triathlon Elite Race Series and was the winner of the 2011 USA Triathlon Collegiate National Championship.
Billington also recorded a fourth-place finish at ITU Under-23 Worlds and added a pair of top-six ITU Pan American Cup finishes.
Additionally, USA Triathlon’s Age Group Committee and Duathlon Committee named Nicole LaSelle (Dayton, Ohio) and Matthew Russell (Scottsdale, Ariz.) Elite Duathletes of the Year for 2011. Russell and LaSelle claimed national titles at the USA Triathlon Elite Duathlon National Championship and went on to place fifth and ninth, respectively, at the ITU Elite Duathlon World Championships.
2011 USA Triathlon Elite Athletes of the Year
Olympic/ITU Athletes of the Year
Sarah Groff (Hanover, N.H.)
Manuel Huerta (Miami, Fla.)
Non-Olympic/ITU Athletes of the Year
Mary Beth Ellis (Boulder, Colo.)
Jordan Rapp (Thousand Oaks, Calif.)
Rookies of the Year
Kelly Whitley (Geneva, Ill.)
A.J. Baucco (Willoughby Hills, Ohio)
Under-23 Athletes of the Year
Kaitlin Shiver (Melbourne, Fla.)
Greg Billington (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
Female Elite Duathlete of the Year
Nicole LaSelle (Dayton, Ohio)
(HM) Courtenay Brown (Boulder, Colo.)
Male Elite Duathlete of the Year
Matthew Russell (Scottsdale, Ariz.)
(HM) Josh Merrick (Alamosa, Colo.)
HM – honorable mention
About USA Triathlon
Founded in 1982, USA Triathlon is proud to serve as the National Governing Body for triathlon – one of the fastest growing sports in the world – as well as duathlon, aquathlon, aquabike, winter triathlon and paratriathlon in the United States. USA Triathlon sanctions 4,000 races and connects with more than 150,000 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 ITU World Championships, Pan American Games and the Summer Olympic Games. USA Triathlon is a proud member of the International Triathlon Union and the United States Olympic Committee.