A look at five of the teams expected to contend for the titles at Saturday’s USA Triathlon Collegiate National Championships.
There are approximately 150 collegiate club triathlon teams across the country with 5,000 active collegiate triathletes (triathlon is not an official NCAA sport at this point). The teams represent 10 collegiate conferences across the country, with some teams as small as a few athletes and others that are considered powerhouse programs and have earned sponsorships.
According to Kevin Haas, Chair to the USA Triathlon Collegiate Committee, the teams have dual purposes. “First is to simply grow the sport, while the second is to highlight the talent of college-age elite athletes.” In recent years many current elite triathletes have came up from the collegiate ranks including Ben Hoffman and Caitlin Snow.
Fifteen hundred of those athletes will qualify to represent their team at Collegiate Nationals—the pinnacle of collegiate triathlon racing. Teams compete on average between five to 10 races a season, earning points toward qualification and typically end the season before nationals with a conference championship.
Nationals for 2013 and 2014 take place in Tempe, Ariz. and will feature a collegiate Olympic race and a draft-legal collegiate team relay (new in 2012) as a showcase event. Replacing the smaller sprint race this year will be a draft-legal Collegiate Championship race with only the best 75 collegiate triathletes in the U.S. qualifying to compete.
The top-three men and women in the draft-legal, top-five men and women in the Olympic and the top-three teams in the collegiate relay will be awarded. A Collegiate Combined Champion for men and women will also be awarded. “Even with the smallest of teams, there still exists that college rivalry you see in other sports,” said Haas. “Collegiate triathlon is the most exciting showcase of triathlon racing.”
Here are a few teams to watch out for in Tempe on April 13, and check back to Triathlete.com throughout the weekend for complete event coverage.
University of Colorado Triathlon Team
Since the early days, the Buffs have been the continued favorite at Nationals, never placing less than third since the first title was given in 1994. With 13 USA Triathlon Collegiate National Championship titles, including 2010-2012, the Buffs always have a target on their backs. Head coach Mike Ricci is hoping to lead the team to its fifth title under his direction. “We have better leadership this year on the women’s side as well as depth.”
And although the men’s side is doing a bit of rebuilding this year, you can’t count them out. “They may be young, but they are still deep,” says Ricci. “That’s the thing about CU, we always have a well-rounded team of experienced kids whether it be a run or a swim background. There isn’t a secret to our success, but I am still always impressed with how hard the kids work.”