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Four years ago, they both were Olympians, representing the United States in Beijing. This time around, both missed qualifying for Team USA. But there still was plenty to race for and a little left to prove.
Sarah Haskins and Jarrod Shoemaker each won their second USA Triathlon Elite National titleS Saturday in Buffalo.
The course at Gallagher Beach provided a few challenges this year, mostly in the form of cooler temperatures and plenty of wind.
Haskins battled with Flora Duffy of Bermuda the entire day. They came out of the water 1-2 and worked together on the draft-legal bike. On Lap 7 of the eight-lap course, Haskins made her move off the front and had a 47-second lead at the start of the run.
"I went into this race knowing that the course is really smooth and it's fairly non-technical. The turns are all wide enough to carry a lot of speed through it," Haskins said. "It was me and Flora and tactically for me I was debating whether to go on the sixth or the seventh or even the fifth lap. I made the decision into the headwind just to go. And when you do that in a race, you've got to go as hard as you can for about two minutes. Just commit. That's what I did."
Duffy made up seven seconds on the first loop of the four-lap run, but Haskins paced herself to finish the 10K strong, taking the US Elite Title and winning first overall in the ITU Pan American Cup race. Haskins finished the 1500-meter swim, 40K bike and 10K run in 2:03:05 while Duffy was second overall in 2:04:21.
"A lot of my runs I've been trying to start out more gradual and not go out so fast so I have a little bit more at the end. I used to take my runs out too hard and would kinda die," Haskins said. "I felt so strong at the end of the run that I think it paid off. But Flora, in the first couple laps, wasn't backing off. She was pressing. I just kept my pace and got to the finish."
It was the second Elite National Title for Haskins, who won in 2006 and then took second in 2007 and 2008. This year, she has won five non-drafting events, was second at the prestigious Hy-Vee Triathlon two weeks ago and caps off her season with the final races in the Toyota Cup series.
The second overall American was Kaitlin Shiver (2:07:57) while Anna Battiata (2:08:36) was third.
Shoemaker was the third American male at last year's race in Buffalo. He was second out of the water and part of a lead pack of nine athletes on the bike. Shoemaker distanced himself on the run. He was running with fellow American Greg Billington for the first half of the run before he pulled away for the win.
"Honestly, I had an amazing race," Shoemaker said. "I was second on the swim the entire time. We had a good group [on the bike] that just pushed the pace. It was almost perfect for me. Coming off on the run, I knew that Greg was going to be right there. I just wanted to kind of feel it out, take my time and this wind is hard so I didn't want to blow myself up.
"I thought about going out hard but I wanted to make sure I took into account the wind. It's such an open course. There's no place to hide. It was good though. It's a fun course."
For Shoemaker, it was his second U.S. Elite Championship title after winning in 2010. He's had impressive results this year, but fell short of qualifying for London. When the Olympics fell through, he set his sights on Buffalo.
"After I didn't make the Olympic team I definitely put a big star next to this one," Shoemaker said. "I wanted to come out and win it. To be honest, I wanted to come here and win it and prove that I am one of the top Americans even though I didn't make the [Olympic] team. It was great to have almost a perfect race."
Billington took second overall but the 23-year old defended his USA Triathlon Under-23 Championship title. Billington, who ran track and cross country at Wake Forest, is part of Project 2016 - one of the programs of USA Triathlon to develop young talent along with the USA Triathlon College Recruitment Program. The Buffalo event was a feature for many younger and first-time elite triathletes and while they push the veterans like Shoemaker to the limit, the 30-year-old is excited to see the growth of the sport.
"It's awesome to see the youth of the sport," Shoemaker said. "In that lead pack were guys like Greg, Joe Maloy, Ben Kanute and Brian Lamar. We all worked together pretty hard on the bike. I'm excited that USA Triathlon has that youth and it's time for them to start shining as the older guys move on."
Shoemaker won with a time of 1:52:44 followed by Billington (1:52:52) and Mexico's David Mendoza (1:53:06). Joe Maloy was the third American and fifth overall in 1:54:19.

email: amoritz@buffnews.com