NEW ORLEANS, La. -- Erika Ackerlund of the University of Montana topped the podium at the 2016 Women's Collegiate Triathlon National Championship at the New Orleans Lakefront on Saturday.
Montana's Erika Ackerlund won the Women's Collegiate Triathlon National Championship on Saturday in New Orleans, La. (Julie Verlinden/USA Triathlon)
Nearly 60 women toed the line for the 400-meter swim, 20-kilometer bike, 5-kilometer run race. The distance, apart from the swim which was shortened due to weather conditions, is the length proposed for use at the collegiate level once triathlon is granted NCAA sport status.
Ackerlund, who crossed the finish line in 1 hour, 1 minute, 27 seconds, came in 12 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Katie Gorczyca of Arizona State. It was Ackerlund's third collegiate national podium finish of the season as she also placed second in the draft-legal race and third in the non-drafting race at the USA Triathlon Collegiate Club National Championships in April.
"The swim was choppy for sure. I was just hoping to get through that," Ackerlund said. "[On the bike], we had a good pack of four at the front, working well together. Everyone was trying to push it hard for sure. Then we got off and my legs just felt good -- better than they've felt before."
Gorczyca wrapped up her race in 1:01:39, followed by Jocelyn Bonney of Queens University of Charlotte (1:02:25). Both women won championship qualifiers leading up to the day's race but didn't have enough in the tank to catch Ackerlund. Gorczyca exited the water second and held steady in the lead group on the bike. Bonney rode in the chase pack on the bike but managed to secure her third-place finish with the fastest run of the day.
"Today's race was tough, but you've got to go with the flow," Gorczyca said. "I'm so excited that it's draft legal in the NCAA. It's the format of ITU races, and it's good to get girls acclimated to this kind of experience. I think a lot of schools are going to jump on board next year, and I'm really excited to see what unfolds."
Gorczyca, Amy Darlington (fifth) and Charlotte Ahrens' (seventh) solid placement in the top 10 helped Arizona State win the team title with 10 points. Last year's team champion, Queens, took second with 13 points behind Bonney, Tereza Zimovjanova and Caroline Condon's efforts while UC Berkeley finished third.
"The first time I raced, I was a junior in high school. I originally wanted to run college cross country, but that [race] really turned me on to triathlon in college instead," Bonney said. "Since then, it's just exploded. Every year you see more teams competing. It's just amazing to see the sport grow."
In total, 12 schools fielded teams of three or more athletes, an increase from last year's championship. Eight of those teams have established varsity training programs.
For more information on triathlon as an NCAA Emerging Sport for Women, visit USATriathlon.org.
2016 Women's Collegiate Triathlon National Championship
New Orleans, Louisiana
400m swim, 20k bike, 5k run
1. Erika Ackerlund (University of Montana), 1:01:27
2. Katie Gorczyca (Arizona State University), 1:01:39
3. Jocelyn Bonney (Queens University of Charlotte), 1:02:25
4. Tereza Zimovjanova (Queens University of Charlotte), 1:03:15
5. Amy Darlington (Arizona State University), 1:03:21
6. Megan Merryman (Liberty University), 1:03:40
7. Charlotte Ahrens (Arizona State University), 1:04:06
8. Melissa Teeple (Ferrum College), 1:04:17
9. Sarah Quintero (Arizona State University), 1:04:47
10. Anna Belk (UC Berkeley), 1:04:54
1. Arizona State, 10 points
2. Queens University of Charlotte, 13 points
3. UC Berkeley, 28 points
4. Texas A&M, 54 points
5. East Tennessee State University, 55 points
||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).