By anyone’s standards Sarah Haskins (USA) has been having a good year.
Coming into this weekend’s Hy-Vee 5150 U.S. Championship Elite Cup women’s race she has ripped off four straight first place finishes first at the Capitol of Texas Triathlon, the Philadelphia Insurance Triathlon, The Lifetime Minneapolis Triathlon and the Lifetime Chicago Triathlon, but it is the race in which she didn’t get to compete that left her in tears.
In order to qualify for a shot at this year’s Olympic Games Haskins had to finish in the top nine, and be the highest ranked American, at the ITU World Triathlon San Diego in May, the last Olympic qualifying race of the year.
Haskins finished eighth while she watched fellow American, and personal friend, Laura Bennett climb the podium, making Haskins a Team USA alternate and ending her 2012 Olympic dreams.
“I have been mentally preparing for this race since last August and physically preparing for this race since last winter,” Haskins said in a blog post following the San Diego race. “Preparing and training for one single day is truly the definition of the Olympic dream, sometimes those dreams happen and sometimes you fall short.”
And sometimes you get a shot at redemption.
This year’s Hy-Vee field could very well be the most competitive in its history and it begins at the top with the London Games’ gold medalist Nicola Spirig of Switzerland and silver medalist Lisa Norden of Sweden, the defending Hy-Vee champion and current 5150 points leader. This will be their first head-to-head matchup since their historic photo finish in London where they were both electronically timed in 1:59:48.
Joining them on Hy-Vee’s start list are Team USA members Sarah Groff, fourth place in London, and Laura Bennett, 2007 Hy-Vee champion and fellow 2012 Olympians Daniela Ryf of Switzerland, Radka Vodickova of the Czech Republic and Maria Czesnik of Poland.
JJ Bailey, former International Triathlon Union amateur age-group world champion, says the start list is top heavy with the Olympians leading the way. “When it comes down to it, I expect it to be a two-woman race between Spirig and Norden,” Bailey says.
But don’t count Haskins out.
“She is coming into this race with a huge chip on her shoulder after she missed out on the Olympic team, and she has been running that way since San Diego,” Bailey says. “Don’t ever count an athlete that hungry out, especially one who has been racing this well.”
Other racers to keep an eye on include American Alicia Kaye, second behind Norden in the 5150 Series Triathlon point standings, Brit Liz Blatchford, third in the 5150 standings and American Kelly Williamson, fourth in the standings.
Athletes in the 5150 series started qualifying in August in South Africa. The series hit full stride in April with the St. Anthony’s Triathlon in St. Petersburg, FL.
Competitors continued to earn points over the spring and summer at 5150 events in New Orleans, Kansas City, New York City and elsewhere. The Giant Eagle Triathlon, July 29 in Columbus, OH, was the final chance for short-course pros to earn a slot in the Hy-Vee field. Becky Lavelle won the event to get a shot at the $151,500 winners’ purses. In all, $1.1 million will be awarded in what continues to be triathlon’s richest race.
JJ Bailey, former ITU amateur age-group world champion and current triathlon coach at Des Moines based Zoom Performance, predicts the women’s winner’s podium will be some combination of Lisa Norden, Nicola Spirig and Sarah Haskins.
Bailey will also be keeping an eye on American Sarah Groff and his dark horse is Kelly Williamson—“Williamson’s specialty is 70.3 distance races, but she is really, really fast on the run,” Bailey says.
Ten to watch:
Nicola Spirig – This year’s Olympic golden girl has yet to finish outside of the top five in an ITU race in 2012. Beginning with her second place finish at the Mooloolaba ITU Triathlon World Cup this past March she has won four out of her past five races on the ITU circuit. At last year’s Hy-Vee race Spirig finished sixth.
Lisa Norden – Watch this video and you will understand why Sweden appealed to the ITU to have Norden’s Olympic silver medal upgraded to a share of the gold. They were turned down, but the Olympics weren’t the only time this year Norden has finished second to Spirig, having finished three seconds behind her at the ITU World Triathlon Kitzbuehel. Norden, the defending Hy-Vee champion, is the 5150 points leader and she is coming off a win at ITU Stockholm on Aug. 25.
Sarah Haskins – First, first, eighth, first, first, first. That is where Haskins has placed in all of her races in 2012. Obviously the eighth place finish caused a lot of heartache by keeping her off of the Olympic team but she is on a roll as she makes her way to Des Moines. Haskins is fifth in the 5150 point standings.
Sarah Groff – Groff came in fourth at the Olympics making her the highest placed American woman in the field. Throughout the season Groff has only gotten stronger, improving her place every time out, besides at the Olympics.
Kelly Williamson – Williamson comes to Hy-Vee in fourth place in the 5150 Triathlon Series point standings. The 70.3 specialist has won five out of the eight races she has participated in this season and has clocked the fastest run time in the field in three out of the eight races including the St. Anthony’s 5150 where she finished fifth.
Laura Bennett – Groff’s Team USA teammate, Laura Bennett, finished 17th in London this year but she is used to success in Des Moines. Last year she finished fifth at Hy-Vee and she was the winner of the inaugural race in 2007. Bennett is married to Greg, the defending Hy-Vee men’s champ, who will be competing again in the men’s field.
Alicia Kaye – Comes in behind Norden on the 5150 Triathlon Series standings after a win at the Muskoka 5150, a fourth place finish in Minneapolis, a second place finish at the Liverpool 5150, and a first place finish at the Memphis in May race. The Canadian native, and now newly minted United States citizen, raced injured at Hy-Vee last year where she finished 17th.
Liz Blatchford – Blatchford sits in third in the 5150 Triathlon Series point standings coming into Hy-Vee after, most recently, a first place finish at the Boulder 70.3 and a second place finish at the New York City 5150. She finished eighth at Hy-Vee last year.
Margaret Shapiro – Has had two third place finishes in ITU races in 2012 and is currently seventh in the 5150 series standings. The mother of two has been racing in the elite field since 2006. At last year’s Hy-Vee race Shapiro came in 13th.
Becky Lavelle – Lavelle, currently eighth in the 5150 standings, finished 11th at last year’s Hy-Vee Triathlon. In June the 38-year-old Louisiana State University graduate won the 5150 New Orleans Triathlon.
2012 Elite Cup Start List
Lisa Norden, SWE
Alicia Kaye, USA
Liz Blatchford, GBR
Kelly Williamson, USA
Sarah Haskins, USA
Margaret Shapiro, USA
Becky Lavelle, USA
Laura Bennett, USA
Daniela Ryf, CHE
Radka Vodickova, CZE
Angela Naeth, CAN
Jodie Stimpson, GBR
Jillian Petersen, USA
Leanda Cave, GBR
Annabel Luxford, AUS
Laurel Wassner, USA
Maria Czesnik, POL
Nicola Spirig, CHE
Lauren Brandon, USA
Lucie Zelenkova, CZE
Jenna Parker, USA
Lisa Marangon, AUS
Jennifer Tetrick, USA
Amanda Felder Derkacs, USA
Sarah Gray, USA
Melissa Rollison, AUS
Sarah Groff, USA
2011 Hy-Vee Elite Cup Top 10
- Lisa Norden, 1:59:12
- Mirinda Carfrae, 1:59:20
- Sarah Haskins, 1:59:29
- Nikki Butterfield, 1:59:38
- Laura Bennett, 1:59:50
- Nicola Spirig, 2:00:08
- Sarah Groff, 2:01:55
- Liz Blatchford, 2:02:09
- Gwen Jorgensen, 2:03:39
- Annie Warner, 2:04:33