COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — In 2008, USA Triathlon staff members Jeff Dyrek and Scott Schnitzspahn began discussions around making women’s triathlon an NCAA sport. USAT obtained 10 letters of support from collegiate athletic directors in 2013 and in April of that year, the NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics approved adding triathlon as an Emerging Sport for Women. In 2014, the first Women’s Collegiate Triathlon National Championships was held in in Clermont, Florida in November.
Fast forward to 2022. Now the NCAA Emerging Sport for Women has met the 10-year window to demonstrate sustainability at the NCAA varsity level. And by securing the 40th school to add a women’s collegiate triathlon program, the sport is now just a few more steps away from becoming a full-fledged NCAA championship sport.
“On behalf of the NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics, we are thrilled to hear that the number of triathlon commitments has reached a level of 40 sponsoring colleges and universities,” said Jason Doviak, chair of the NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics (CWA) and Alfred State Director of Athletics. “Continuing to increase opportunities for women is an important initiative for CWA and we are grateful for the schools who have committed thus far. We are excited to continue our work with the staff at USA Triathlon to reach the goal of establishing this sport as a NCAA championship in the future.”
What did it take to get here? Years of phone calls and emails to Athletic Directors at Division I, II and III schools across the country. Pitching and recruiting presentations at NCAA conferences. Securing grant funding. Developing and building the infrastructure for the women’s collegiate program. Assisting schools in recruiting athletes and securing coaches.
All of this work — and many sleepless nights — culminated in this historic moment as women’s collegiate triathlon is on the doorstep of becoming the newest NCAA championship sport.
“There are no words that do justice to reaching this milestone — incredible, monumental are a few that come immediately to mind,” said Tim Yount, USA Triathlon Chief Sport Development Officer. “This collective achievement is not only important for the sport of triathlon and multisport community as it comes on the 50th anniversary of Title IX and sends an unquestionable message that women’s sports are thriving and are here to stay.”
Triathlon now has a few more steps to take on its way to being fully managed by the NCAA as a championships event, including committee, council, divisional and budget approvals. These details will be worked out, and USA Triathlon will continue to add more programs to grow the sport at the collegiate level.
To mark this monumental achievement, USA Triathlon will hold a five-month celebration of women’s varsity collegiate triathlon and women in the sport of triathlon starting on June 23 — on the 50th anniversary of Title IX — and running through November, following the fall 2022 women’s varsity collegiate triathlon season.
In Colorado, both Colorado Mesa University and Denver University now field women’s varsity collegiate triathlon programs.
Colorado Mesa University was the first university in Colorado to add a women’s varsity collegiate triathlon program in the fall of 2017. “As a progressive institution, we are always interested in providing students the ability to experience life-long healthy habits while working toward an academic degree,” said Director of Athletics Tom Spicer at the time. “Due to our location and the increase in multisport athletes in secondary education, we felt it was the next best fit for programming in the athletic department at Colorado Mesa.” The Colorado Mesa Mavericks compete in NCAA Division II. In March of this year, the team finished fifth in the Division II standings of the Clermont Draft Legal Challenge NCAA race at Lake Luisa State Park in Florida.
Denver University became the first school in Colorado to field a Division I program when they added women’s triathlon to its varsity sports offerings in 2020. “Colorado is one of the nation’s thriving triathlon hubs. With DU’s prestigious academic reputation, and as the first Division I program in the state to add the sport, the school is sure to attract top student-athletes and become a force on the national stage,” said Rocky Harris, USA Triathlon CEO.
Last November, DU finished fourth in the Division I championship race, led by freshman Freya McKinley with her top-10 finish in a time of 1:06:47. Freshmen Olivia Ebenstein and Avarie Faulkner contributed top-20 performances. The DU Pioneers are coached by Barbara Perkins.
Women’s triathlon is a fall sport, and the varsity season includes three regional qualifiers followed by the Women’s Collegiate Triathlon National Championships. Races are sprint-distance, featuring a 750-meter open-water swim, draft-legal 20-kilometer bike and 5-kilometer run.
Keep an eye on these two Colorado programs as they gear up for the 2022 fall racing season.