Tuscaloosa, Alabama, is set to welcome more than 1,300 triathletes from 120 collegiate clubs and more than 100 high school triathletes next month, for the 2017 USA Triathlon (USAT) High School and Collegiate Club National Championships, which run from 21-22 April.
USA Triathlon was last in Tuscaloosa for Collegiate Nationals in 2011 and 2012, as well as for the Age Group Nationals in 2009 and 2010.
The two-day collegiate event, which is expected to draw its largest-ever field, will kick off at 08:15 ET on Friday 21 April, with the fifth-annual USA Triathlon Draft-Legal Collegiate Championships. Up to 75 men and 75 women who qualified for spots through their respective collegiate club teams and USA Triathlon’s 10 collegiate conferences will be on the start list. Athletes will cover a 750m swim in Black Warrior River, followed by a 20.5K, five-lap draft-legal bike leg and ending with a 5K run. The draft-legal format is similar to what is contested at the Olympic Games and ITU World Triathlon Series races.
Friday 21 April will also see the second annual High School National Championships, originally added to the program in 2016. The event will be in a non-drafting format with a 750m swim, three-lap 21.45K bike and 5K run. The High School Program is designed to expand opportunities in the sport for young athletes ages 13-19 and grow triathlon clubs at the high school level. Awards will be presented to the top individual finishers as well as the top three clubs. Taylor Knibb (girls’) and Jake Baugher (boys’) were the inaugural high school national champions in 2016, while Sammy’s Fox Valley Region Club earned the high school club title.
The weekend continues with a larger field for the Olympic-distance Collegiate Club National Championships race on Saturday 22 April. The course, which covers a 1,500m swim, 40K bike and 10K run, is centred around the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater and travels in and around Jack Warner Parkway. The men will start at 07:30, and the first women’s wave is scheduled for 10:20. For the third straight year, the race will also feature a paratriathlon open wave going off at 09:30 and following a sprint-distance course.
The sixth annual Mixed Team Relay event will also be contested on 22 April, with more than 50 relay teams set to compete. The relay will start at 16:15. Teams are comprised of four athletes (two men and two women), with each athlete covering a 300m swim, 5.9K bike, 1.6K run course. This year’s relay will also feature up to 10 alumni teams for the first time. USAT notes that mixed team relay events are gaining popularity in the US and worldwide, as the ITU pushes for the format to be added to the program at future Olympic Games.
Qualified athletes may compete in both the draft-legal and Olympic-distance Collegiate National Championship events, and both races will count toward the overall team scores. Winners of individual races, as well as all team standings, will be announced at the award ceremony, scheduled for 20:00 on 22 April at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater.
The University of Colorado earned its seventh consecutive overall team title in 2016, and returns as the defending champion. Colorado also earned the men’s team title in 2016, while UCLA picked up the women’s team title for the third straight year. Colorado’s Brittany Warly (women’s) and Penn State’s Mike Meehan (men’s) topped the field of more than 100 athletes in the Draft-Legal Collegiate Championships. Erica Clevenger of the University of Arizona earned the women’s Olympic-distance collegiate title, while Meehan made it two wins in two days in the Olympic-distance event. Led by 2015 Collegiate Nationals champion Kelly Kosmo, UCLA took home the Mixed-Team Relay title.
Athletes can visit usatriathlon.org/usatcn17 for complete 2017 USA Triathlon Collegiate Club National Championships information and usatriathlon.org/usaths17 for High School National Championships information.