The announcement, from USA Triathlon, that Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia, is the latest school in the nation to add a varsity women’s triathlon program, was made even more notable by the fact that it is the first-ever HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) to participate in the sport at the varsity level.
With the addition of Hampton, the sport inches closer to its goal of becoming a full-fledged NCAA championship sport. Currently, varsity women’s triathlon is offered at 24 universities at the Divisions I, II and III level. Under its emerging sport status, triathlon has a 10-year window to prove continued momentum in order to become an official NCAA sport. Triathlon entered its emergent status in 2014, meaning that by 2024, at least 40 NCAA Division I, II and III institutions must adopt the sport at the varsity level for women.
And the fact that in four years, it has surpassed the halfway point bodes well.
“While we’re very confident we will hit 40, we can still achieve full-fledged NCAA Championship status by 2024 even if we haven’t, as long as we are showing continued and sustainable progress towards the goal,” Caryn Maconi, USA Triathlon’s communications manager, told SDM.
While the sport is not experiencing the same meteoric rise as beach volleyball, it remains popular and is continuing to grow. USA Triathlon has aided that growth by offering three-year grants for eligible college programs. The addition of the Hampton women’s triathlon program is made possible through a $225,000 grant from the USA Triathlon Foundation, which was reserved for the first HBCU that added the sport at the varsity level in a proactive effort to increase diversity in collegiate triathlon. The grant will be distributed over a five-year period and may support travel, equipment, coaching, scholarships and other expenses related to building a sustainable varsity program. (All other varsity women’s triathlon programs, including future HBCUs, have the opportunity to apply for the standard USA Triathlon Foundation Women’s Emerging Sport Grant.)
“Hampton University’s partnership with USA Triathlon provides a pathway into the collegiate arena for the sport at an HBCU for young black women from urban communities around the world,” said Dr. Tekemia Dorsey, CEO of the Maryland-based International Association of Black Triathletes. “As IABT’s Youth & Junior Club Programs continue to expand here in Maryland through partnerships with urban local school systems, we are now able to advocate, support and encourage enrollment in Hampton University’s triathlon program. I have great hope that other HBCUs will come on board to introduce the program, especially in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area. This has been an initiative of mine for several years, and I am ecstatic to see it come to fruition. Historic, groundbreaking, monumental. Great job, Hampton University and USA Triathlon!”
In addition, the organization is working to reward individual students for their start-up work in college triathlon. USA Triathlon created the Truxes Model Scholarship to award $1,000 scholarships to current college students to write proposals for NCAA institutions (Division I, II or III) whose institutions officially commit with USAT to add the sport.
The growth of the sport is adding up to increasingly measurable economic impact. As a case study, USA Triathlon reported to SDM that at its April 2017 USA Triathlon Collegiate Club and High School National Championships in Tuscaloosa, almost 98 percent of participants used lodging, resulting in close to $1 million economic impact in that area. The total economic impact (including the lodging figure plus shopping, attractions, dining, rental cars and more) came to more than $2.1 million.
While the women’s triathlon is the side receiving the most support presently, expect collegiate men’s triathlon to be a wave of the future as well. USA Triathlon is keeping its focus on the women’s effort until the sport is fully successful and firmly positioned at the NCAA level for women. In the meantime, destinations and event owners can expect to see collegiate men’s participation at the club level.
The projection is for college multisport to continue its rise. Working to attract this demographic early and promoting opportunities for students to register can help create the reputation of a student-friendly event that continues to grow and create positive returns. SDM will continue to follow the development of the issue – and of the sport.
Want to know where the women's varisty programs are currently -- and where athletes might be concentrated? Here's the rundown.
Current Varsity Women’s Collegiate Triathlon Programs
NCAA Division I
Arizona State University (Tempe, Ariz.)
East Tennessee State University (Johnson City, Tenn.)
Hampton University (Hampton, Va.)
University of San Francisco (San Francisco. Calif.)
University of South Dakota (Vermillion, S.D.)
Wagner College (Staten Island, N.Y.)
NCAA Division II
American International College (Springfield, MA)
Belmont Abbey College (Belmont, N.C.)
Black Hills State University (Spearfish, S.D.)
Colorado Mesa University (Grand Junction, Colo.)
Daemen College (Amherst, N.Y.)
Davis & Elkins College (Elkins, W.V.)
Drury University (Springfield, Mo.)
Montana State University Billings (Billings, Mont.)
Queens University of Charlotte (Charlotte, N.C.)
St. Thomas Aquinas College (Sparkill, N.Y.)
Southern Wesleyan University (Central, S.C.)
NCAA Division III
Calvin College (Grand Rapids, Mich.)
Concordia University Wisconsin (Mequon, Wis.)
Millikin University (Decatur, Ill.)
Milwaukee School of Engineering (Milwaukee, Wis.)
North Central College (Naperville, Ill.)
Northern Vermont University (Johnson, Vt.)
Transylvania University (Lexington, Ky.)
Trine University (Angola, Ind.)
Willamette University (Salem, Ore.)