Canada's Kira Gupta-Baltazar prevails in NCAA women's triathlon championships debut

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Kira Gupta-Baltazar, right, topped the podium in her NCAA National Triathlon Championships debut, defeating fellow Canadian and two-time event champion Hannah Henry, left, on Saturday in Tempe, Ariz. (Submitted by Barrie Shepley - image credit)
Kira Gupta-Baltazar, right, topped the podium in her NCAA National Triathlon Championships debut, defeating fellow Canadian and two-time event champion Hannah Henry, left, on Saturday in Tempe, Ariz. (Submitted by Barrie Shepley - image credit)

Kira Gupta-Baltazar of Kleinburg, Ont., made it four consecutive years a Canadian woman has stood atop the medal podium at the NCAA National Triathlon Championships.

She crossed the finish line in Saturday's five-kilometre run in one minute 4.20 seconds for a 26-second victory over Victoria's Hannah Henry, who won back-to-back titles in 2017 and 2018.

"Kira has done the work for the last four years to go from total novice on a bike and a recreational runner to a world class collegiate triathlete with great Olympic aspirations," Barrie Shepley, her coach at C3 club in Caledon, Ont., said in a news release.

On Sunday, the 19-year-old Gupta-Baltazar, who competes for San Francisco University, was first out of the 750-metre swim in Tempe, Ariz., and stayed near the front through the 20 km bike in her NCAA Championships debut.

A promising swimmer four years ago, Gupta-Baltazar approached Shepley about focusing on triathlon and has since appeared at three world junior championships and won several races against older, more experienced women.

Henry, 22, led Arizona State Sun Devils to a fifth straight Division I title.

Her teammate Kyla Roy of Winnipeg won the event in 2019 and was seventh on Saturday, one spot ahead Sun Devil Alexe Coursol of Montreal, who was named freshman of the year.

South Dakota, which was third in the team competition, boasts three Canadians on its roster — Cassandra Dalbec, Ella Kubas and Teagan Shapansky.

"The NCAA has near 40 scholarship schools with women's triathlon programs and more and more Canadians are getting a great education and world-class coaching" said Shepley, a triathlon analyst for CBC Sports the past four Summer Olympics.

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