Erika Ackerlund Takes Women’s Collegiate National Title

Montana's Erika Ackerlund won the Women's Collegiate Triathlon National Championship on Saturday in New Orleans, La. Photo: Julie Verlinden/USA Triathlon

The University of Montana’s Erika Ackerlund edged Arizona State’s Katie Gorczyca in a race-shortened 2016 Women’s Collegiate Triathlon National Championship in New Orleans. 

A total of 48 collegiate athletes competed in the swim-shortened Women’s Collegiate Triathlon National Championship along Lakeshore Drive in New Orleans on Saturday, Nov. 5, with Erika Ackerlund (University of Montana) taking the win in a recorded time of 1:01:27—just 12 seconds over Arizona State’s Katie Gorczyca (1:01:39).

The 20-year-old Helena-native overcame a two-on-one ASU numbers advantage leading into the run leg of the draft-legal, sprint-distance (500m swim, 20km bike and 5km run) race which was shortened 250m on the swim following choppy conditions on Lake Pontchartrain prior to the 1 p.m. start time.

“I’ve been dealing with a right foot injury, so it’s been just the last two months that I’ve had consistent running,” Ackerlund told Triathlete.com following the race. “I came out of T2 and my legs just felt better than they ever have. I knew that trying to stay with the lead girl was my best chance and it paid off.”

When asked if the altered swim course played a factor in her result, the 2016 collegiate club nationals combined women’s winner admits it may have played a small role—both good and bad.

“My swim is not as fast as the fastest girls here, so shorter probably helped,” explained Ackerlund, who was introduced to the sport in college by triathlon coach and boyfriend Elliot Bassett. “But I have also never swam in such wavy, harsh open-water conditions before, so that was new to me.”

Following the swim, a four-rider break that included Ackerlund, Gorczyca, Charlotte Ahrens (Arizona State) and Tereza Zimovjanova (Queens University of Charlotte) averaged 23 mph on the bike to open a 90-second lead over a nine-rider chase group. The lead group became three just shy of T2 after the trio were able to shake Zimovjanova on the backside of the second of two laps.

“The bike was strong,” said Gorczyca, who’s ASU team placed four in the top 10 to earn an overall team classification victory. “But so was the run.”

“The last half mile of the race was tough,” she continued. “I really put my head down and did my best to catch the leader, but my legs just wouldn’t go an faster. Props to Erika, because she is strong biker and runner, and raced a great race.”

One of the standout performances of the day belonged to 18-year-old Bonney, who ran onto the podium with the fastest run split of the day (17:48).

“Honestly, that was the most pain I’ve ever been in while running,” admitted Bonney. “When I came off the bike, I had a bigger gap to overcome than I wanted. I was hoping to keep it under a minute, but it was more like 1:35. So I knew I had a lot of work to do, so I just went out there and did everything I could to give my team a fighting chance for the title because that’s really what it’s all about today.”

The 2016 women’s collegiate triathlon season marks the third year of high-level, draft-legal racing following a race structure and criteria outlined in the NCAA’s emerging sports for women proposal. (Learn more at Usatriathlon.org/ncaa.)

New Orleans, Louisiana
400m swim, 20k bike, 5k run
Complete Results

Individual Overall
1. Erika Ackerlund (University of Montana), 1:01:27
2. Katie Gorczyca (Arizona State University), 1:01:39
3. Jocelyn Bonney (Queens University of Charlotte), 1:02:25
4. Tereza Zimovjanova (Queens University of Charlotte), 1:03:15
5. Amy Darlington (Arizona State University), 1:03:21
6. Megan Merryman (Liberty University), 1:03:40
7. Charlotte Ahrens (Arizona State University), 1:04:06
8. Melissa Teeple (Ferrum College), 1:04:17
9. Sarah Quintero (Arizona State University), 1:04:47
10. Anna Belk (UC Berkeley), 1:04:54

Team Overall
1. Arizona State, 10 points
2. Queens University of Charlotte, 13 points
3. UC Berkeley, 28 points
4. Texas A&M, 54 points
5. East Tennessee State University, 55 points

Aaron S. Lee is a pro triathlon and cycling columnist for Eurosport, and contributor to Triathlete and Velonews.