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Sarah Piampiano, 31, New York, N.Y.
The fastest American amateur at the Ford Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii last October, (9:51:17) Piampiano made her pro debut one month later at Ironman Cozumel, finishing seventh (9:57:58). The former investment banker for HSBC Securities in New York City now lives and trains in Los Angeles and will next race in April’s Ironman 70.3 Texas in Galveston and also has three Ironmans (Texas, Coeur D’Alene and Lake Placid) penciled in her schedule. “Last year I was able to consistently place as either the top or one of the top overall amateurs at every race,” she says. “It was a huge accomplishment for me, but I am not ready to stop there.”
Christine Anderson, 29, Boulder, Colo.
After a broken foot derailed her plans to turn pro last year, Anderson will race mostly Olympic and 70.3 races with the elites in 2012. The six-foot Chicago native will be building off a dazzling 2011 campaign, which included overall amateur wins at the Wildflower Olympic Distance Triathlon, Boulder 70.3, and Buffalo Springs Lake Ironman 70.3, along with an age-group win at Kansas 70.3, and a runner-up finish at the Hy-Vee Triathlon – 5150 U.S. Championship. Racing fast runs in the Anderson family: Christine’s brother, Gavin, is also a pro triathlete based in Louisville, Colo.
Kelly Whitley, 19, Geneva, Ill.
Whitley officially steps up to the pro ranks with an impressive resume. Her 2011 accomplishments—including a bronze-medal performance at the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, a win at the USAT Junior Elite Nationals, and a fifth-place finish at Junior Worlds—makes her one of the most promising talents in draft-legal racing. A member of the USAT’s Elite Triathlon Academy in Colorado Springs, Whitley hails from the esteemed Multisport Madness Triathlon Team outside of Chicago, where Lukas Verzbicas and Kevin McDowell were teammates.
Kelly Fillnow, 28, Charlotte, N.C.
A former collegiate tennis player and runner, Fillnow created a big buzz in 2011 when she set the American amateur Ironman record in Austria with a 9:29:49 (she was also first among age-groupers at Ironman 70.3 St. Croix.). This year, she’ll return to St. Croix, then race iron-distance races in Lake Placid and Cedar Point while repping Team Timex. Fillnow draws motivation from the memory of Sally Meyerhoff, her teammate on the cross country team at Duke who died in a cycling accident last March . “Sally inspired me to go after my dreams. I will carry a part of her with me through every race,” says Fillnow.
Meghan Newcomer, 31, New York, N.Y.
Newcomer has seen much success on the age-group scene: Last season, she picked up overall amateur wins in the Washington, DC and New York City Triathlons, as well as an age-group win at the USAT National Champs (fifth overall). She has also made several appearances at ITU World Champs, highlighted by a silver medal in the 30-34 age group category at the 2010 event in Budapest, Hungary. Among Newcomer’s races for 2012 is the Ironman U.S. Championships in New York City on August 12, where she’ll be racing right in her own backyard.