Grace or Bella?


Matt and Damon agree that the race for female Junior of the Year is between ISABELLA BUENTING, 19 (photo L), and GRACE BUSCH, 19. Matt favors Grace. Damon gives the slightest edge to Bella. Here are their respective arguments:

Damon chose to evaluate Bella's 2022 resume, race by race: 

- Buenting's 4th place / 1st Junior at Lake Minnetonka is a "solid" performance. She placed higher in the past (3rd in 2019) and has gone faster (1:13:15 - junior course record, also in 2019) but LMT's swim was long this year, adding 3-4 minutes to the typical times for the frontrunners. So, Bella's 1:18 translated to a 1:14 effort. Solid.

- Bella podiumed at Pleasant Prairie Sprint (WI) and DeGray Lake Sprint (AK). After researching the resumes of the women who finished ahead of her in both events, Damon concluded that she once again turned in "solid" performances.

- Then there was her performance at Legacy Sprint in California. Damon considers this result to be the premier effort by a female junior this year. Not just solid, it was outstanding. She placed 5th overall behind some serious athletes, including former pros MICHELLIE JONES, the winningest professional triathlete in history, and former Olympic triathlete (2008)  JULIE ERTL. The race was won by JENNA HAUFLER, whose Olympic and 70.3 results over the past two season have been outstanding. Placing 3rd was BRITTANEY WYSZYNSKI, whose overall tri resume is even more impressive that Haufler's...

- Bella also raced at Sprint Nationals (18th), which was actually a Super Sprint. The results tell us little. In the end, Buenting had three "solid" performances and one truly outstanding one; an effort Damon argues is the female POY by a Minnesota Junior in 2022.

If the MMH Committee decides to nominate and name winners this year, and Isabella earns the JOY, it would be the third such honor she has received.


Matt explains his support for Grace Busch at JOY: 

The competition for Female Junior of the Year may be one of the toughest categories that the Minnesota Multisport Honors Committee has to evaluate this season. Although there are two clear frontrunners, Isabella Buenting, 19, and Grace Busch, 19, it's less clear which of these two had a more impressive and successful overall season. Both had impressive resumes, but Matt gives a very slight edge to Grace Busch for the following reasons:

- Grace raced exclusively in Minnesota, which allowed her to be directly compared against the state's other juniors and established competitors. She raced well over both the sprint and Olympic distances, posting a very respectable 2:17 at Turtleman Olympic (long swim, short run). In addition to stepping up to the Olympic distance, Grace demonstrated her speed by winning the Maple Grove Sprint, finishing ahead of Elena Hengel and Cheryl Zitur. Grace took a big leap forward this season, far surpassing her previous standards, and reaching a truly elite level for a female junior. 
- Bella's only race on Minnesota soil was at the Lake Minnetonka Triathlon in June. Although the swim was a little long as Damon noted, Bella was still over 5 minutes slower than her junior course record time in 2019. She was also beaten by Elena, who Grace beat later in the season. Bella did have an outstanding effort at the Legacy Sprint in California, and this was perhaps the best single effort between the two girls. Bella and Grace raced head-to-head at Sprint Nationals, which turned out to be a super sprint because of weather. Bella did cross the line ahead of Grace, but her margin of victory was a slight 47 seconds. Bella has been at an elite level for a couple years now, but her overall season was slightly less impressive than the bar she had previously set for herself.

Again, this category is very tough. Matt feels that Bella's ceiling is higher than Grace's, which she showed at Legacy Sprint, but Grace's entire season was more impressive since she raced competitively at a variety of distances, beat some of Minnesota's established athletes, and was much better than in past years.