By Merryn Sherwood on 01/03/12 at 8:09 am
USA Triathlon will announce its Elite Athletes of the Year later this week. Verzbicas (Colorado Springs, Colo.) made national headlines in September 2011 when he captured gold at the ITU Junior World Championships to honour friend and teammate Kevin McDowell, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in March 2011. Prior to winning the world title, Verzbicas was victorious at the USA Triathlon Junior Elite National Championship and the PATCO Junior Pan American Championships last year.
Whitley (Geneva, Ill.) claims her second straight Junior Triathlete of the Year honor after finishing fifth at ITU Junior worlds and winning the USA Triathlon Junior Elite National Championship for her first career national title. She also made her elite debut and recorded three top-seven finishes in ITU Pan American Cups.
Verzbicas and Whitley currently train in Colorado Springs, Colo., as members of the Elite Triathlon Academy.
“Lukas’ and Kelly’s performances in 2011 put a spotlight on the rising tide of junior triathlon in the United States. It is not possible to race for the podium on the international stage if you aren’t tested by your peers at home,” said USA Triathlon Athlete Development Coordinator Steve Kelly. “The growing ranks of highly committed junior athletes ensures that the few who are fortunate enough to earn a spot to compete for a world title are race ready. And the presence of world-class juniors in our domestic events raises the bar for everyone else.”
Additionally, Tom Edwards (Kennett Square, Pa.) and Holly Resh (Redlands, Calif.) were selected as 2011 Junior Duathletes of the Year by the USA Triathlon Age Group Committee and Duathlon Committee. Edwards won his age group and posted top-seven overall finishes at the Washington Crossing Sprint Duathlon and the LCCM Duathlon. Resh won her age group and placed fourth overall at the Camarillo Sprint Duathlon and was 15th among junior women at the 2011 ITU Duathlon World Championships in Gijon, Spain.
Verzbicas and Whitley also headline USA Triathlon’s list of Junior Elite and Youth Elite All-Americans. This honor goes to the top up-and-coming triathletes in the United States and is based on their final national ranking and performances in top junior and youth draft-legal events.
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