World champion Katie Zaferes of USA reacts as she crossing the finish line during the women's race of the 2019 ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Lausanne, Switzerland, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019. (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP)
World champion Katie Zaferes of USA reacts as she crossing the finish line during the women's race of the 2019 ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Lausanne, Switzerland, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019. (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP) (Laurent Gillieron/AP)

Katie Zafares now has a world title on her triathlon resume.

Zafares, a North Carroll High School graduate, secured the ITU World Triathlon Series overall title by winning the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Lausanne, Switzerland on Aug. 31, just two weeks after she crashed during a test event and broke her nose.

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Zafares, then Katie Hursey, won numerous accolades as a cross country and track and field standout at North Carroll. She was a six-time Carroll County Times Player of the Year and the 2005 All-Metro Player of the Year. She attended Syracuse from 2007-12 and ran both cross country and track for the Orange.

She still holds the school record in the outdoor 3,000-meter steeplechase (10:08.44) and indoor 5,000 run (16:40.95).

She placed fifth in the ITU World Triathlon Series in 2015, fourth in 2016 — Zaferes competed in the Olympics that summer — third in 2016, and second in 2018.

The Times caught up with Zafares to discuss her accident, recent world title victory, and representing the United States and Carroll County on an international stage.

Q: Two weeks before you won the World Series Grand Final in Switzerland, you had a serious crash. Can you describe the aftermath of that accident and what your recovery process was like as you continued to prepare for the world title event?

A: As a result of the accident I broke my nose, got 23 stitches in my mouth [where] my gums separated from my teeth, had two stitches on my nose and impact to my shoulder and leg (but luckily nothing serious!). The face injuries, though uncomfortable for a bit, didn’t really concern me because they didn’t effect training and healed really quickly. The shoulder was the most concerning to me because I lost a bit of range of motion directly after the crash that resulted for a few days afterwards.

However, in the grand scheme of things I was super lucky, because none of my injuries kept me out of training for long and by the end of the next week I was back into my normal training routine.

Q: What sort of emotions were you dealing with before and after you won the world title?

A: As a result of the crash, before the race I was feeling a bit more concerned and just nervous for how the race was going to go. Although I had physically recovered well, there were parts of the Grand Final course that were quite technical and mentally I was more fearful than I would have been if I hadn’t crashed the race before. However, whenever these thoughts [crept] in I did my best to manage them and refocus on my strengths and preparation. After winning the world title, I was elated! It’s a goal that I’ve had and an achievement that almost seems unreal. It was extra special and meaningful to win the Grand Final as well as take the overall as it made the race seem that much more momentous. I LOVE that I got to share it with my parents and my husband Tommy at the race and it’s a memory I will cherish forever.

Q: Can you describe the ITU World Triathlon Series and how one qualifies for the overall world title?

A: The ITU World Triathlon Series is an international draft legal triathlon series made up of seven races plus the Grand Final. Each race has a value of points with the Grand Final being worth more. The World Champion is deemed by the amount of points earned throughout the season counting five races plus the Grand Final.

Q: How would you best describe your training leading up to every triathlon?

A: On average we train about 20-25 hours a week. Leading into a race those amount of hours drop by about half as we decrease our training volume and length of intensity. However, we will still continue to do short efforts to keep the body moving and make sure we don’t feel flat on race day. I also prepare by doing a lot of race course and venue recon, scheduling, mental visualization and preparation.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about representing the United States, and Carroll County, as a triathlete on an international level?

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A: The most rewarding thing about representing the United States, and Carroll County, is thinking about all the people who have influenced my life to get me to this point. The amount of support I’ve received from others gives me both power and pride. I love that these are achievements that happened as a result of all the impact and influence of the community that has both shaped me in the past and surrounds me currently.

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