Earlier this week USA Triathlon announced JP Donovan and Hannah Rae Finchamp as the amateur athletes selected as the 2014 Off-Road Triathletes of the Year in recognition of stellar performances in trail-based events.
“The off-road triathlon discipline continues to gain popularity, with the International Triathlon Union officially recognizing the format as a world championship event in 2011. USA Triathlon first awarded Off-Road Athletes of the Year in 2014 for accomplishments in 2013. The honor is presented by Garmin, and winners were selected by USA Triathlon's Age Group Committee,” the release stated.
"The selection committee was very pleased to choose Hannah and JP as the USA Triathlon Off-Road Athletes of the Year out of a deep and competitive field of candidates," Steve Sutherland, chair of the USA Triathlon Age Group Committee Athlete of the Year Subcommittee. "Off-road triathlon is another fast growing segment of our sport and we are delighted to recognize the accomplishments of these fierce competitors."
Donovan (Incline Village, Nev.) was the first overall amateur finisher at the XTERRA USA Championship and XTERRA Lake Tahoe. He also raced in the XTERRA World Championship, where he was the top American amateur finisher and eighth amateur overall.
Finchamp (Altadena, Calif.) picked up Off-Road Triathlete of the Year accolades for the second straight year. Competing in the 15-19 age group, Finchamp was the top amateur finisher at the XTERRA USA Championship and XTERRA West Championship, as well as the USA Triathlon Off-Road National Championships and ITU Cross Tri World Championships. She was also the top U.S. amateur finisher at the XTERRA World Championship, where she finished as the eighth amateur overall.
Matthew Balzer (Reno, NV) and Meghan Sheridan (SLC, Utah) were named honorable mention in the release.
Other XTERRA racers worth of note include Rob Ricard, a 37-year-old Naval Architect from Berwick, Maine. Ricard won his division at all six XTERRA races he entered during the regular season (Jersey Devil, Richmond, French River, Garnet Hill, Sky High, and STOAKED) and he won the overall at five of those events. In June, he took the top spot at the XTERRA East Championship that doubled as the USA Triathlon National Championship. He was third in his division at Nationals, where he was honored as the ENVE Performer of the Year.
David Duncan won the 15-19 division at the XTERRA West and USA Championships and was the top American (5th overall) in the 15-19 division at XTERRA Worlds.
Rachel Anders, 16, from Sandy, Utah, was the youngest in the field at XTERRA Worlds, where she finished 2nd in the 15-19 division just four minutes behind Hannah Rae (14th amateur overall). Rachel was also 2nd behind Hannah at Nationals (7th amateur overall) and won the 15-19 division at the XTERRA Mountain Championship in Colorado.
Among men in the “Master's Division” Dennis Farrell won the 50-54 age group at the West, Mountain, and World Championships, and Dennis Brinson was tops in the 55-59 division at the West, USA, and World Championships.
Among master's women Kathy Waite stood-out. She was a No. 1 fan of triathlon before she ever did one herself just a few years ago. Waite won her division (40-44) and was the top amateur at XTERRA Lory, won her division (2nd overall) at XTERRA Buffalo Creek, and also captured the Mountain and USA Championship titles.
As for “grand masters” a nod to David Rakita, who won the 65-69 division at six XTERRA races including the USA and World Championship. For the women, it’s all about Cindi Toepel, who captured her unprecedented 10th XTERRA National Title this year.
Really though, everyone who gives it a go is an “athlete of the year” in our book!