By Andrew Mishler | BSU at the Games
Nine seconds is all that separated Manuel Huerta from swimming, biking and running as a United States Olympian this summer and an early end to that very dream.
Fortunately for Huerta, those nine seconds came in his favor.
Competing in the ITU World Triathlon in San Diego on May 12, Huerta raced to ninth place with a time of one hour, 49 minutes and 29 seconds. It was only slightly ahead of Kris Gemmell of New Zealand, who finished at 1:49:40.
Huerta cut it as close as he could. Only a top-nine finish would clinch a spot on the U.S. Olympic Triathlon team, which is allotted only two male competitors.
Fellow U.S. competitor Hunter Kemper came in fifth place at 1:49:17, securing himself and Huerta as the two-man team to compete for the U.S. this summer in London.
Following the swimming and biking legs of the race, the top of the field was still bunched within seconds of each other. That left the running event to decide the outcome.
Huerta had prepared exactly for that situation.
“I knew that it would come down to the run,” Huerta said in a release. “The past couple weeks I’ve been focusing on my run, especially my running off the bike. I was pretty much on the last pack on the swim, but I stayed positive; I stayed calm. We caught up and then I set myself in very good position on the bike on the last couple laps, and then I went out with my heart and then gave everything I had.”
Huerta may be headed toward his first Olympic appearance, but this is familiar ground for the 36-year-old Kemper.
With his fifth-place finish, Kemper became only the third athlete to qualify for all four Olympic triathlons, dating back to Sydney in 2000. The two other triathletes joining him are Simon Whitfield (Canada) and Anja Dittmer (Germany).
Kemper proved he was still in prime condition after suffering an elbow injury in the Myrtle Beach ITU Pan American Cup in October 2011. Saturday was his first day of official competition since his injury.
“It’s a tremendous day for me; I didn’t know if I would actually be back here,” Kemper said. “I went through so much … It’s been a struggle.”
The ITU World Triathlon San Diego elite races are the next events in the Olympic Qualification Period, which closes on May 31.
The women’s elite races will take place at 1 p.m. Eastern on Saturday, May 19, while the men will compete the following day at 1 p.m. Eastern on Sunday, May 20. Universal Sports will broadcast both events.
Top 10 and U.S. competitors
1. Jonathan Brownlee (GBR), 1:48:46
2. Sven Riederer (SUI), 1:48:52
3. Richard Murray (RSA), 1:49:02
4. Mario Mola (ESP), 1:49:08
5. Hunter Kemper (Colorado Springs, Colo.), 1:49:17
6. Ryan Sissons (NZL), 1:49:22
7. Tim Don (GBR), 1:49:25
8. Bevan Docherty (NZL), 1:49:29
9. Manuel Huerta (Miami, Fla.), 1:49:31
10. Kris Gemmell (NZL), 1:49:40
15. Gregory Billington (Colorado Springs, Colo.), 1:49:49
24. Jarrod Shoemaker (Clermont, Fla.), 1:50:11
32. Ethan Brown (Lowell, Mass.), 1:50:27
34. Matt Chrabot (Colorado Springs, Colo.), 1:50:32
53. Mark Fretta (Colorado Springs, Colo.), 1:53:09