Jordan Pruszenski’s resume already included a title in the USA Winter Triathlon National Championships. On Saturday, she added one in her home state.
Pruszenski won the 2018 national championship in St. Paul, Minnesota when she was living in the state as a graduate student at the University of Minnesota.
Her national championship Saturday came by way of a thrilling win at the Tri-Flake Triathlon at Kincaid Park. Pruszenski edged Anchorage’s Jessica Vetsch by a split second, winning with a time of 1:34:12.50. Vetsch was just .19 back at 1:34:12.69.
“She passed me a couple of times on the course and you’re coming down that last hill I edged her out, sneaked buy her on the downhill and then just held on,” Pruszenski said. “It was a pretty awesome race.”
The 29-year-old grew up skiing, competing at Service High. But she thought she went out a bit faster than expected on the running portion. From there it was a game of cat-and-mouse between her and Vetsch.
“(The run) worked out well for me,” she said. “Jess caught me on the bike. It was kind of nice, because I just had somebody to look at and chase a little.”
While both the men’s and women’s races were dominated by Alaska competitors, there were athletes from out of state as well as the Tri-Flake doubled as the national championship. The winter triathlon is similar to a standard triathlon, with freestyle skiing swapping in for the swimming leg. The run was a 6K along the Coastal Trail, an eight-mile bike ride and two laps through the 3K loop at Kincaid.
Temperatures in Anchorage pushed 30 degrees on Saturday. Pruszenski, who grew up in Anchorage but now lives in Fairbanks, said It was a welcome reprieve and excellent conditions for a race.
“I live now up in Fairbanks,” she said. “Coming down from negative temperatures to 25, I was like ‘This is great! Heat wave!’ ”
But the temps were just right for racing as multiple racers commented on how ideal trail conditions were at Kincaid.
“They did such a great job of setting this race up that by the time we got out there it was hard pack,” she said. “The run was a little smushy, but you know, that’s just to be expected. But the bike and the ski were, the highway.”
Eric Flanders, the race’s defending champion, didn’t have quite the photo finish in his repeat victory. He won by nearly two minutes, with a time of 1:18:55.31. Anchorage’s Cody Priest was the runner-up at 1:20:42.17.
As if he needed it, Flanders may have caught a break when the bike portion of the race shifted from single track trails with snow in Anchorage over the last 24 hours.
Flanders, one of the state’s top competitive cyclists with victories in winter and summer events alike, had the opportunity to really go full throttle in his strongest portion of the event as the race was run on wider, more easily groomed trails.
“We did an out-and-back, which is a little more pure triathlon-style course,” he said. “It’s more consistent power. I think that worked in my favor.”
While the bike leg is generally the longest in triathlons which also can favor strong cyclists. In Alaska, Flanders said it’s not unusual to compete against world-class talent in each of the disciplines. That can also mean surprises sneaking up on the leader.
“You can have guys who are professional mountain runners, you can have guys who are World Cup skiers, you can have guys who are racing at kind of higher level on the bike,” he said. “You always wonder who is back there when you get to the ski, maybe someone who used to race World Cup or has great pedigree. But at the same time, you’re most tired at that point.”
Men’s top 10
1. Eric Flanders, Anchorage, 1:18:55.31; 2. Cody Priest, Anchorage, 1:20.42.17; 3. Mackie Derrick, Anchorage, 1:21:04.52; 4. Taylor Turney, Anchorage, 1:21:51.23; 6. Lukas Platil, Palmer, 1:24:01.22; 7. Jared Nieters, Amissville, Virginia, ;1:26:37; 8. Franklin Dekker, Anchorage, 1:26:41.86; 9. Brent Peacock, Jackson, Wyoming, 1:30:56.89; 10. Brad Manderfeld, Anchorage, 1:32:42.53.
Women’s top 10
1. Jordan Marię Pruszenski, Fairbanks, 1:34:12.50; 2. Jessica Vetsch, Anchorage, 1:34:12.69; 3. Rya Berrigan, Palmer, 1:37:40.69; 4. Karina Packer, Anchorage, 1:39:23:69; 5. Heather Helzer, Anchorage, 1:41:26.21; 6. Katelyn Stearns, Anchorage, 1:41:54.91; 7. Kimberly Riggs, Anchorage, 1:45:24.95; 8. Allison Melocik, Anchorage, 1:45:34.21; 9. Morgan Aldridge, Sterling, 1:45:53.62; 10. Sara Miller, Anchorage, 1:46:49.51.