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Kemper, Bennett Earn USA Triathlon Elite National Titles

usatenc11kemper.jpgThree-time Olympian Hunter Kemper won a record seventh career men's elite national title, and Beijing Olympian Laura Bennett earned her third women's crown Saturday at the USA Triathlon Elite National Championship, held in conjunction with the Nickel City Triathlon at Gallagher Beach.

Kemper (Colorado Springs, Colo.) claimed his first elite national title since 2006 in 1 hour, 48 minutes, 24 seconds, tying him with Karen Smyers for a record number of USA Triathlon Elite National Championship victories -- regardless of gender.

"It feels good to have seven," Kemper said. "It's kind of special -- the fact that I've overcome a lot and gotten through a lot in the past couple years."

Bennett (Boulder, Colo.) defended her 2010 title with a time of 1:59:37 on the 1.5-kilometer swim, 40-kilometer bike and 10-kilometer run course.

2011 USA Triathlon Elite National Championship Results:
Buffalo, New York

Elite Men Results Time
Elite Women Results Time
Hunter Kemper 1:48:24
Laura Bennett 1:59:37
Kaleb VanOrt 1:49:17
Gwen Jorgensen 2:03:50
Jarrod Shoemaker 1:50:45
Kaitlin Shiver 2:05:12
Greg Billington 1:50:55
Jenna Parker 2:05:58
Steve Sexton 1:51:13
Amanda Felder 2:06:36

The event, which featured an international field of nearly 100 athletes, also served as the Buffalo ITU Pan American Cup and the fourth of five stops of the 2011 USA Triathlon Elite Race Series.

usatenc11bennett.jpg2011 ITU World Championship Series winner Helen Jenkins of Great Britain finished just behind Bennett in 1:59:44, and 2012 U.S. Olympic qualifier Gwen Jorgensen (Milwaukee, Wis.) was the second American and third overall in 2:03:50. Kaitlin Shiver (Satellite Beach, Fla.) placed fifth overall and rounded out the national championship podium as the No. 3 American.

Great Britain's Ritchie Nicholls was second overall on the men's side with a time of 1:49:05. Kaleb VanOrt (Mishawaka, Ind.) crossed the line as the No. 2 U.S. finisher and third overall in 1:49:17. Defending national champion Jarrod Shoemaker (Maynard, Mass.) was the third American and fifth overall.

Shiver and Greg Billington (Colorado Springs, Colo.) won the under-23 national titles after each finished fourth at the ITU U23 World Championship in Beijing, China, two weeks ago.

Following the inaugural Nickel City Triathlon Saturday morning, the elite women got their start in Lake Erie at 11 a.m. Bennett and Jenkins maintained control of the field from start to finish, leading into the first transition and lengthening their lead with each lap of the eight-loop bike course.

Bennett and Jenkins stayed together stride-for-stride on the run until the last lap, where Bennett made her move to take the win. "We did work very well together -- a lot of teamwork out there," Bennett said. "I couldn't have done it without her today."

Jorgensen was part of a 15-woman chase pack on the bike before a crash set her back a few minutes. Despite the crash she managed to close the gap with her 36:04 10k run split to make the podium. "I was just trying to look ahead, trying to give it everything I had," said Jorgensen, who claimed her 2012 Olympic spot last month in London.

2011 Buffalo ITU Pan American Cup Results:
Buffalo, New York

Elite Men Results Time
Elite Women Results Time
Hunter Kemper (USA) 1:48:24
Laura Bennett (USA) 1:59:37
Ritchie Nicholls (GBR) 1:49:05
Helen Jenkins (GBR) 1:59:44
Kaleb VanOrt (USA) 1:49:17
Gwen Jorgensen (USA) 2:03:50
Andrew Yorke (CAN) 1:49:26
Charlotte McShane (AUS) 2:04:14
Jarrod Shoemaker (USA) 1:50:45
Kaitlin Shiver (USA) 2:05:12
Greg Billington (USA) 1:50:55
Jenna Parker (USA) 2:05:58
Bryce McMaster (AUS) 1:51:01
Amanda Felder (USA) 2:06:36
Steve Sexton (USA) 1:51:13
Jessica Broderick (USA) 2:06:53
Marc Jenkins (GBR) 1:51:15
Jennifer Spieldenner (USA) 2:07:33
Brian Fleischmann (USA) 1:51:25
Manon Letourneau (CAN) 2:08:05

The men's race was a close contest from start to finish. Dustin McLarty (Irvine, Calif.) and Canada's Jon Bird led the way out of the water but were quickly caught by five others, including Kemper.

The lead pack of seven maintained a distance of more than a minute over the chase pack of 28. "The swim was challenging, but we got away on the swim -- a couple of us -- and worked really hard on the bike today," Kemper said. "The race was totally won on the bike."

Even with a combined 10 elite national championships under their belts, Bennett and Kemper are focusing on the races ahead. "It is pretty special to be a national champion that many times over," said Bennett. "Being a world champion would be even better than that. Maybe now after having a couple nationals, I can get up there with the world and stay on top."

A $75,000 total prize purse, which included $25,000 for the top five American finishers, was on the line for the elites with $6,250 going to the top male and female finisher. An additional $3,750 went go to the top U.S. male and female.

The USA Triathlon Elite Race Series is a domestic, five-event series that delivers an opportunity for the nation's top Olympic-distance triathletes to compete for $275,000 in prize money and a series title -- all while honing the draft-legal racing skills necessary to challenge for the podium at the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Bennett and Kemper each earned 50 Elite Race Series points with their victories in Buffalo. Updated series standings will be available next week at usatriathlon.org.

The five events that comprise the series are in Clermont, Fla. (March 5), Monroe, Wash. (June 25), San Francisco, Calif. (July 9), Buffalo, N.Y. (Sept. 24) and Myrtle Beach, S.C. (Oct. 9).