Six months have passed since women’s college triathlon reached the 40-school mark, making it eligible to take the remaining steps that would move it from its status as an Emerging Sport for Women, and into the division of becoming a championship sport.
Since that time, formative and foundational work has been done by USA Triathlon – and the sport continues to grow at the college level. In fact, the 41st school, Division I University of Arizona, just announced it would add women’s tri as a varsity program.
Championships will not only add fuel to the growth of the sport, they will create more of a market for, and interest in, triathlon events where college athletes, as well as high schoolers with aspirations to become college athletes, will be competing. This in turn means extra attention will be given to destinations hosting such events.
At the time of the 40-school announcement, it was noted that more steps needed to be taken. SDM decided to check in with USA Triathlon Chief Sport Development Officer, to find out where things stood.
Sports Destination Management: Has there been more interest from schools since the announcement that USA Triathlon had passed the 40-school mark?
Tim Yount: There has, but not at the level I thought would happen. Seems that many schools are still having massive fallout from the pandemic and not able to resume normal operations from many perspectives including staffing and budget. We have about 15 schools on our hot list of potential additions.
SDM: Where will the college triathlon championship be held in the coming year? Is that the official first NCAA Triathlon Championship?
Yount: The Nationals will be held in Tempe, Arizona on November 14. We will have each division (DI, DII and DIII) competing for a national title in standalone events. The first Women’s Collegiate Tri Championship was held in 2015.
SDM: Is this the official first NCAA Women’s Triathlon Championship event?
Yount: Not yet – we have to wait several more years before the NCAA will take this on for us and call it an NCAA championship.
SDM: Does it now fall to NCAA to pick sites for future championships, or will USA Triathlon still have a hand in that – or does it become NCAA’s responsibility to choose after a certain date?
Yount: Yes, their championship division will take that over from USAT. We will work with them and probably mentor them about our sport and its current operations. They will work with us too on qualifiers, structure of those events, dates, etc.
SDM: Do you anticipate TV coverage of triathlon at the NCAA level, the way there is for many of the other championships? It would likely raise the profile of the sport to high school students, as well as for hosting destinations and events themselves.
Yount: Once the NCAA takes over our championships, they will provide the online and TV scheduling for triathlon. Not sure what that will look like but hope we can package this into an exciting media-friendly format.
SDM: In previous years, USA Triathlon offered combines for high school students who were interested in college triathlon. What has been the reception to that?
Yount: We had 15 combines in 2019 and then halted them for a few years because of no ability to host them on campuses. We created a new virtual combine that is positioned online for athletes from around the world to do – times for 100-meter swim and 1600 meters on a track. They have the ability to add additional detail as well as part of their own account creation.
SDM will continue to follow this developing issue.