Tempe, Arizona, will welcome hundreds of the US nation’s top triathletes from the collegiate and age group ranks this Saturday at the USA Triathlon Women’s Collegiate Triathlon and Age Group Draft-Legal National Championships. The races are held as part of the Sun Devil Draft-Legal Classic, hosted by Arizona State University at Tempe Town Lake North Shore.
A record field of 126 student-athletes from 25 varsity teams are set to compete at the sixth annual women’s collegiate championships, which return to Tempe for the third consecutive year. Nearly 400 athletes from 42 US states will contest the second annual age group draft-legal championships, which head to Tempe for the first time after being held in Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida, last year.
The course for collegiate athletes consists of a 750m swim, draft-legal 20km bike and 5km run. The collegiate races will be split into two waves, with NCAA Division III teams starting at 11:30 MST and DI and DII teams going off at 13:30 MST.
A free livestream of both collegiate races will be available at triathlonlive.tv, with four-time US Olympian Hunter Kemper and Sun Devil Triathlon senior Sarah Quintero serving as race commentators.
Triathlon was approved as an NCAA Emerging Sport for Women in 2014, and the first varsity National Championships were held in the autumn/fall of 2015. The sport has a 10-year window to demonstrate sustainability at the NCAA level. 31 schools currently sponsor varsity women’s triathlon, up from 26 at this time last year.
All collegiate teams and individuals qualified for Nationals through one of three Women’s Collegiate Triathlon Regional Qualifiers held during the autumn/fall season. The Central Regional Qualifier took place on September 1 in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, followed by the West Regional Qualifier on September 15 in Belle Fourche Reservoir, South Dakota, and the East Regional Qualifier on October 19 in Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia.
ASU is the favourite in the DI competition, having won the DI team title the last three years. The Sun Devils have shown no signs of slowing down in 2019, sweeping all three Regional Qualifiers. The squad is led by two-time defending individual national champion Hannah Henry, who took the win at the East Regional Qualifier, and Kyla Roy, who won both the Central and West Regional Qualifiers.
Queens University of Charlotte has been the DII program to beat since the first National Championships in 2015, when the Royals were the top team overall. Natalie Bash has been the top Queens athlete this season, finishing second in the DII race at the East Regional Qualifier.
Three up-and-coming DII teams are prepared to challenge the Royals. Colorado Mesa University, Davis & Elkins College and Drury University have each claimed one Regional Qualifier DII team victory this year. CMU’s Mazzy Jackson took the DII individual title at the West Regional Qualifier, Davis & Elkins’ Natalia Hidalgo Martinez took the East Regional title, and Drury’s Jayme-Sue Vermaas took the Central Regional win.
North Central College is the three-time defending champion in the DIII competition. The Cardinals have continued to dominate in 2019, winning the East and Central Regional Qualifiers (there was no DIII competition at the West Regional event). Madelyn Scopp and Amira Faulkner have been North Central’s top performers this year, each claiming a DIII individual Regional Qualifier victory.
The Age Group Draft-Legal National Championships, set for 07:00 MST, will also feature a 750m swim, draft-legal 20km bike and 5km run. Top finishers in each age group earn the chance to represent Team USA at the 2020 ITU Age Group Sprint Triathlon World Championships in Edmonton, Alberta, which are also draft-legal.