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AJ, Preston, Heather & Maggie...

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Who do Matt and Damon believe is the 2022 Male Triathlete of the Year? They are still discussing this, and agree that there are two especially strong candidates, but neither are ready to name the TOY yet. Here, in alpha order, are the two athletes and their 2022 resumes under consideration:

- AJ MANNING, 34, Fargo (photo) - AJ had a spectacular season, winning three (Amateur title at Buffalo Olympic, Course Record at HyVee Sprint, and CR at Green Lake Olympic) of the five regional races he entered. His 14th overall place at Olympic Nationals (2:00:16) also helps his case. He set two course records, one of which is a slam-dunk POY nominee, and in his two confrontations with fellow TOY frontrunner Preston Youngdahl, he is 1 - 1.

- PRESTON YOUNGDAHL, 32, Plymouth - On Minnesota soil, Preston won four of the five races he entered, and placed 2nd in the other. His course record at Clearwater Olympic and amateur title at Maple Grove Olympic are POY nomination-worthy. He also lowered his personal half-iron best, posting a 4:12 (6th place overall) at Ironman 70.3 Madison...

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Andrew or Stuart?

 

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Matt and Damon agree the STUART GILDEA and ANDREW KERSHAW are the two strongest candidates for 2022 Male Most Improved, though Damon is not convinced that PRESTON YOUNGDAHL shouldn't be included here. Like AJ MANNING and ANDY ZABEL, Youngdahl brought an elite resume into the season, whereas Gildea and Kershaw made the leap from being "solid" performers to elite ones. Damon argues that while Youngdahl was a consistent winner at sprint and Olympic distance during his years in Louisiana, his 70.3 efforts were "medium dazzlle" by comparison. Since his return to Minnesota, his Sprint and Olympic winning continued, and Damon would argue that he had gotten faster since coming north, but his PR at 70.3 improved by 12-minutes.

Still, Youngdahl's 2022 performances, though elevated, did not surprise anyone, whereas Gildea's and Kershaw's did. So, Matt was tasked with arguing on Gildea's behalf for MI, and Damon will give reasons for favoring Kershaw.

KERSHAW - Damon believes that if a 2022 Team Minnesota were to be announced, Gildea would rank above Kershaw. But because Stuart, an Iowan who didn't relocate to Minnesota until 2021, had earlier results (2019) that portended his rise to elite status, whereas Kershaw's had a steeper climb to a claim a place among our region's elite amateurs....

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Grace or Bella?

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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...

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2022 Performances of the Year...

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This post is a cursory look at possible (amateur) Performance of the Year nominations. Only a few performances are highlighted here because both Matt and Damon agreed that these efforts stack up alongside the best in Minnesota multisport history, i.e. performances by the likes of Matt Payne, Dan Hedgecock, Cathy Yndestad etc.

Here are their men's selections:

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"Somewhat Bummed"...

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By Rhiannon O'Connor

Kona Race report - It was great to meet up with Carey Congdon Cribbs at the prerace briefing. The briefing was late , ran long. For me it would have been very useful for them to explain that instead of a pair of yellow buoys marking the turns, you just sight on this large supper cruise yacht/dive boat and swim around that! 

 October 6 was a very long day. I was surprised at how emotional I was as we made our way down to our starting corral. So many cheering and excited volunteers and family lining the way. 

My swim was great in 1:25. It was really cool seeing the tropical fish below us. And going round the dive boat I realized that the little sparkly firefly things were bubbles coming up from photographers on the bottom! I had to do a complete change in the tent as there was no way I could have put my swim skin on over my Tri suit. Helped by really great volunteers. LOTS of sunscreen, sleeves and bike gloves....

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