Last week, USA Triathlon (USAT) today announced the University of South Dakota as the 20th school — and third NCAA Division I program — in the United States to add varsity triathlon as an NCAA Emerging Sport for Women. The commitment of the 20th school is seen as a key milestone in triathlon’s journey to becoming an NCAA Championship sport, marking the halfway point of a goal to reach 40 schools by 2024.
Triathlon was deemed an NCAA Emerging Sport for Women in January 2014. USAT has a 10-year window to demonstrate sustainability as an NCAA sport option. USA Triathlon’s recruiting process is gaining momentum, as five schools have announced the addition of varsity women’s triathlon programs in the past five weeks.
“We are ahead of schedule as the sport reaches the halfway point to full-fledged NCAA status, and I’m highly confident in the future of women’s triathlon as a permanent varsity sport at universities nationwide,” said Rocky Harris, USA Triathlon CEO.
“We are proud to welcome the University of South Dakota as the 20th school in the nation to offer varsity women’s triathlon, and we look forward to the Coyotes’ contributions both on and off the race course as Division I student-athletes.”
The NCAA Emerging Sports for Women program was created in 1994 to grow meaningful intercollegiate participation opportunities for female student-athletes, create more sport-sponsorship opportunities for institutions and help new sports achieve NCAA championship status.
“We’re pleased to see the sponsorship numbers growing for triathlon, which is an indicator that our NCAA schools are very interested in this sport and welcome the competition opportunities it will provide for women,” said Amy Wilson, NCAA Director of Inclusion.
“Triathlon is one of three sports in the NCAA Emerging Sports for Women Program, and we’ve seen success with sports moving from the program level to NCAA championship level. We look forward to watching triathlon progress and seeing the great accomplishments of the student-athletes who are competing.”
Based in Vermillion, the University of South Dakota (USD) joins Arizona State University and East Tennessee State University in offering Division I women’s triathlon programs. The team will begin competing in the autumn/fall of 2018.
“We believe women’s triathlon is a great fit with our athletic mission to produce lifelong athletes and productive citizens,” said Jamie Oyen, Senior Woman Administrator at USD. “The rapid growth in the sport of triathlon, along with the NCAA Emerging Sport status, made the sport itself a good fit. The interest in triathlon in our state, as well as the facilities we already have in place, make women’s triathlon a great addition and complement to our 17 current intercollegiate sports.
“We believe that the new women’s triathlon student-athletes will set a high standard academically and athletically, and contribute to our campus in a variety of ways.”
The addition of women’s triathlon to USD’s varsity sport portfolio was made possible through a US$140,000 grant from the USA Triathlon Foundation. The USA Triathlon Foundation Women’s Emerging Sport Grant is distributed to select NCAA membership institutions to develop, implement and sustain women’s triathlon programs at the NCAA varsity level.
“I am excited to accept the USA Triathlon grant to establish a women’s triathlon team as an emerging sport at the NCAA Division I level,” said David Herbster, Athletic Director at USD. “This is a unique opportunity to join in pioneering a sport in the NCAA as well as create new opportunities for female student-athletes.”
The collegiate women’s triathlon season, which takes place primarily from September to November, includes three regional qualifiers and the Women’s Collegiate Triathlon National Championship.
Athletes race over sprint-distance courses covering a 750m open water swim, draft-legal 20K bike and 5K run.
At the 2017 Women’s Collegiate Triathlon National Championship held in Tempe, Arizona, on 5 November, Arizona State University defended the overall and Division I team titles. Queens University of Charlotte earned the Division II crown as a club program, while the top-placing varsity Division II team was the University of West Alabama. The Division III crown went to North Central College (Ilinois).
Of the 20 varsity women’s triathlon programs in the nation, three are Division I, nine are Division II and eight are Division III programs. Sixteen US states are represented.