Former Middlebury College swimmer Sarah Groff ’04 has earned a spot on the 2012 United States Olympic Triathlon Team. Groff earned the right by being the second American finisher (seventh overall) at the recently held World Championship Series in London.
According to USA Triathlon’s 2012 Olympic qualification criteria, the two highest-placing eligible American athletes could automatically qualify for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team by placing among the top nine finishers in London. The race was held on the same course proposed for use at next year’s Games.
After whittling the lead down to just 25 seconds after six laps of the bike, the chase pack merged with the leaders on the seventh and final lap to send nearly 60 athletes into the running portion of the race together. Teammate Gwen Jorgensen exited transition in the back third of that group, but moved her way up to sixth place midway through the run. Jorgensen and Groff were running third and fourth, respectively, with 2.5k to go, and Jorgensen surged to grab second with a 33:43 closing 10k run. Groff crossed the line in seventh 17 seconds later joining Jorgensen on the U.S. roster for 2012.
After dealing with injuries for much of last season, Groff, 29, continued a breakthrough season Saturday with a third top-seven finish on the 2011 WCS circuit.
“I wasn’t ready to go (to the Olympics) in 2008, I don’t think, but I was definitely ready this time around,” Groff said. “The past three years have been really tough, lots of ups and downs, so it’s been a long road, and I’m really, really pleased to be there.”
“I think the USA has an awesome qualification process,” said Jorgensen. “Sarah Groff and I can now spend the next year training, planning and getting it right so we can peak at the Olympics.”
Groff moves to sixth in the World Championship Series rankings, followed by Bennett in seventh. Jorgensen, who earned a $13,000 payday for her runner-up showing, jumps to 21st following just the second-ever podium finish for an American woman in the three-year-old WCS. Groff was third in Kitzbühel on June 19 for the first-ever podium for a U.S. woman.
The seven-race WCS is a key proving ground for top U.S. triathletes aiming for a spot on the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team. In addition to racing for WCS points, athletes also will be looking to earn points toward securing a spot for their country at the 2012 Olympic Triathlon in London.