NEW YORK, N.Y. - A talented field of paratriathletes raced through the Hudson River, along the West Side Highway and into Central Park Sunday at the 2011 Accenture USA Paratriathlon National Championship, held at the Nautica New York City Triathlon. Individual national titles were earned in six categories, and athletes finishing in less than four hours qualified to compete in the ITU Paratriathlon World Championships this September in Beijing, China.
After gaining an early lead on the swim, Aaron Scheidies (Seattle, Wash.) recorded the top overall finish in 2 hours, 7 minutes, 35 seconds, defending his national title in the TRI-6 category. Patricia Walsh also claimed victory in the TRI-6 category in 2:41:47, posting the top women's time of the day in the Olympic-distance race.
In addition to Scheidies, two other athletes defended their national championship titles from 2010 - women's TRI-3 winner Beth Price (Spanish Fort, Ala.) and women's TRI-4 victor Robin Caruso (Ridgefield, Conn.).
Rosinbum logged the second-fastest men's time of the day in 2:19:29, while Caruso's time of 2:51:05 ranked her second among the female paratriathletes.
For the second year, an open Physically Challenged Division was contested in addition to the national championship wave to help meet the needs of the growing number of paratriathletes across the country. Erich Manser (Leominster, Mass.) and Amy Winters (Hicksville, N.Y.) posted the fastest times in this division Sunday.
Walsh raced to the fastest time in the open division in 2010 and continued her success in New York as the fastest female athlete this year. "It's really exciting," she said. "My dad's here, a couple of my close friends are here. It was awesome to run with Carolyn (her guide)." Along with others who finished under the 4-hour mark, Walsh qualifies for Team USA, but doesn't plan to take any time off to prepare. "I'm used to Ironman distances, so I'm surprised that it's over," she said, adding, "When the bike leg was over, I felt like I was just getting started."
"It was a great race with a great group of spectators and athletes," said Rosinbum, who credits his TRI-4 win to the fact that he was able to spot his competition along the course at the bike turnaround. "When you know what winning is like, you go for it. It's an amazing feeling."
Among the paratriathletes were newcomers to the sport, including McLaughlin, who has only been competing in triathlon since January and completed her first Olympic-distance triathlon today. "I definitely got a bit nervous in the swim," she said. "It's the longest distance I've swam. Once I was out of the water and on the bike course, it was awesome. A lot of people cheer us on when they see that we're challenged athletes, and once I got off the bike I knew it was all golden from there."
Although the start of the race was delayed and rainy, athletes like TRI-5 runner-up Michael Johnston (San Diego, Calif.) didn't seem to mind. "It rained today but we all had to face the rain," he said. "I don't think it was a big disadvantage. It was a tough run, and I pushed through it." Johnston improved his time from 2010 by nearly nine minutes, and looks forward to representing the U.S. at the ITU Paratriathlon World Championships next month.
McLaughlin may be new to the sport, but her outlook on the day's events was likely shared by many of her fellow competitors. "The atmosphere was awesome and New York City is a great place to race. This is one of the best days ever. It's a great sport and it's so empowering."
In Sunday's Nautica New York City Triathlon elite race, Rebeccah Wassner (New Paltz, N.Y.) was the winner for the third year in a row with a time of 2:03:19, finishing nearly a minute ahead of her closest competitors Jenna Parker (Santa Monica, Calif.) and Amy Bevilacqua (Wilton, Conn.). Ben Collins (Seattle, Wash.) claimed the win in the men's race with a time of 1:48:11, ahead of runner-up Greg Bennett (Boulder, Colo.) and third-place finisher Tim Reed from Australia. Nearly 4,000 age group athletes were also in action on the 1.5-kilometer swim, 40-kilometer bike and 10-kilometer run course.
2011 Accenture USA Partriathlon National Championship, New York, N.Y.
National champions by category - Click here for full results
Female TRI-1: Minda Dentler (New York, N.Y), 3:13:34
Male TRI-1: Andre Kajlich (Seattle, Wash.), 2:25:32**
Female TRI-2: Melissa Stockwell (Chicago, Ill.), 3:26:46
Male TRI-2: Travis Ricks (San Diego, Calif.), 3:31:54
Female TRI-3: Beth Price (Spanish Fort, Ala.), 3:30:00
Male TRI-3: David Kyle (Athens, Ala.), 2:35:34
Female TRI-4: Robin Caruso (Ridgefield, Conn.), 2:51:05
Male TRI-4: Joel Rosinbum (Portland, Ore.), 2:19:29
Female TRI-5: Danielle McLaughlin (Los Angeles, Calif.), 3:04:01
Male TRI-5: James Brown (Carlsbad, Calif.), 2:26:50
Female TRI-6: Patricia Walsh (Seattle, Wash.), 2:41:47
Male TRI-6: Aaron Scheidies (Seattle, Wash.), 2:07:35
Photo: Patricia Walsh posted top women's time of the day and won the TRI-6 category (Ben Solomon/USA Triathlon)