Ericka Acklerund

University of Montana grad and Helena native Ericka Ackerlund competes in the International Triathlon Union Under-23 Triathlon World Championships Friday in Switzerland. She was the top U.S. finisher, taking eighth place.

University of Montana graduate Erika Ackerlund was the top U.S. finisher Friday at the International Triathlon Union Under-23 Triathlon World Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The Helena native placed eighth in the women’s U23 race. The U23 athletes covered a 1,500-meter swim; an eight-lap, 40-kilometer bike ride; and a four-lap, 10-kilometer run. Each lap on the bike and run took athletes up steep and hilly terrain in the downtown streets of Lausanne.

Ackerlund finished the swim just outside of the top-10 but was able to join a group of leaders on the bike, including France’s Emilie Morier, Australia’s Kira Hedgeland, Great Britain’s Olivia Mathias and several others. By the time they hit transition two, the leaders had 45 seconds on the rest of the field.

“Today was my last Worlds as a U23 athlete, and it was a blast to race it on the super tough course here in Lausanne,” Ackerlund told teamusa.org “I loved swimming in the lake, and it was one of my better swims of the year to make front pack. Then riding up the hills was all-in, and I don’t think I caught my breath until halfway through the ride. I’m happy to have finished up with eighth, my second time with top-10 at U23 Worlds before I move into elite racing next season.”

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Emilie Morier of France won the women's U23 race in two hours, four minutes and one second. Ackerlund was clocked at 2:06:49.

Three years ago, while attending UM, Ackerlund was crowned national champion of the combined category at the National Collegiate Club Triathlon Championships in Clemson, South Carolina. It marked the first national title for the UM Triathlon Club since 2006 when Ben Hoffman earned the individual crown.

Acklerlund, who now resides in Canada, has continued to excel as an elite triathlete since then. She cracked the podium for the first time in ITU Continental Cup (CAMTRI) competition in 2018, and now has six CAMTRI medals. She’s also earned two consecutive top-10 finishes at U23 Worlds: 5th in 2018 in Gold Coast, Australia, and 8th today in Lausanne.

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Bill Speltz is in his 13th year as Missoulian Sports Columnist. He also guides the sports dept., scheduling day-to-day coverage. Do you have a story idea? Email Bill at bill.speltz@missoulian.com.

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