Gwen Jorgensen posted the second-fasted run split among the competitors in the Pan American Games triathlon on Sunday and pushed into fourth place behind teammate Sarah Haskins, who took the gold medal in Puerto Vallarta.
With the victory, Haskins secured a sport with Jorgensen in the 2012 Olympics in London. Jorgensen, a part-time tax accountant from Milwaukee, earned her Olympic slot with a second place finish in an International Triathlon Union Championship Series race in August.
She took a conservative approach in the heat on Sunday.
“I was definitely trying to push it from the start but I wasn’t going all out on the start,” Jorgensen said. “It was really hot and I was trying hard not to overheat. I had confidence that I could bridge up, but the last lap I just wasn’t able to.”
Jorgensen finished 22 seconds off the podium and three minutes back of her golden teammate.
Haskins, of Colorado Springs, Colo., earned the fifth all-time Pan Am Games triathlon gold medal for the U.S. in 1 hour, 57 minutes, 37 seconds on the 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike, 10-kilometer run course. Silver went to Barbara Riveros Diaz of Chile, while Brazil’s Pamela Nascimento Oliveira earned bronze.
“This was my last race of the season, so it’s awesome just to end on a high note. I felt good on the run … ” Haskins said. “Our goal was to really work together as a team, and we had many different scenarios on how to pull it together and I’m just so happy that it worked, most especially for Team USA over my individual goals.”
In the men’s race, Manuel Huerta, of Miami, claimed a silver medal, seven seconds behind gold medalist Reinaldo Colucci of Brazil. Canada’s Brent McMahon was third.
The Pan Am race caps a breakout season for Jorgensen, who competed in her first triathlon a little more than a year ago. A high school swimmer and runner, Jorgensen earned All-American honors in track at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and was recruited to join the USA Triathlon development squad.
She scored the Olympic berth on the course that will be used in London in 2012, and earlier this month ran away with a victory in the Myrtle Beach Triathlon. That win delivered the overall title in the USA Triathlon Elite Race Series.