Collegiate Recruitment Program

Do you have what it takes to be the next great American triathlete?

Collegiate runners, you could become USA Triathlon’s next rising star with help from the USA Triathlon Collegiate Recruitment Program. Your athletic career can continue after you graduate with guidance from top triathlon coaches, the necessary tools to transition into a new sport and the training resources to help you compete at the highest level.

Did you know? 

  • USA Triathlon’s top five elite women in 2018, all of whom finished the International Triathlon Union (ITU) season ranked within the top-25 in the world, are products of the Collegiate Recruitment Program: Katie Zaferes (No. 2 world ranking, Syracuse University graduate), Kirsten Kasper (No. 4, Georgetown University), Taylor Spivey (No. 8, California Polytechnic State University), Chelsea Burns (No. 22, Colgate University) and Summer Cook (No. 25, Villanova University).
     
  • Half of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team — including USA Triathlon’s first Olympic gold medalist, Gwen Jorgensen — ran collegiately at the NCAA level. Jorgensen ran for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Zaferes for Syracuse and Greg Billington for Wake Forest University. 

  • Of Team USA’s 22 Olympians for triathlon, 19 competed at the NCAA level for running or swimming prior to their Olympic berth.

  • The Collegiate Recruitment Program is currently seeking NCAA runners who have the potential to become world-class triathletes. Do you have what it takes?
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    Launched in 2009, the Collegiate Recruitment Program actively recruits NCAA runners and swimmers to the sport of triathlon. Through strategic coaching and mentoring, USA Triathlon provides recruits with the skills they need to become elite triathletes capable of podium finishes in ITU World Triathlon Series events and at the Olympic Games.

    The program is led by Barb Lindquist, who successfully made the transition from Stanford University swimmer to 10-year elite triathlete and 2004 U.S. Olympian.

    CRP athletes on the world stage

    Zaferes, the ITU World Triathlon Series No. 2-ranked athlete, came to the sport in 2013, following her NCAA career at Syracuse where she competed in steeplechase and long-distance track events. 

    “The Collegiate Recruitment Program found me. I never thought I was going to be a professional athlete of any kind. But, when you’re given the opportunity to train at the Olympic Training Center, that’s something you don’t turn down,” Zaferes said. “I took a chance, and one thing kind of led to another.”

    After going through the CRP Resident Program, which immerses recruits in a centralized daily performance environment with world-class coaches, Zaferes qualified for and competed at the 2016 Olympic Games. 

    Zaferes continued to achieve at the elite ranks in 2017, taking silver at the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final and finishing third in the overall WTS season rankings. Her 2018 season was even better. 

    Zaferes reached the podium in six of the eight races that made up the 2018 WTS season, culminating in a bronze-medal finish at the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final and a No. 2 overall finish in the WTS season rankings. Her success wasn't just collecting podium finishes and medals, however. Zaferes also finished second on the prize money list in 2018. 

    Demonstrating the depth of U.S. triathlon talent, several American women stood atop the podium with Zaferes throughout the season. 

    Kirsten Kasper, Taylor Spivey, Summer Cook, Chelsea Burns and Renée Tomlin — all CRP graduates — finished the season with a combined nine ITU World Cup medals and four ITU World Triathlon Mixed Relay Series podiums. Kasper, for the second consecutive year, placed fourth in the overall WTS rankings. 

    “I think it’s been a great program for the women. It’s amazing that Kirsten Kasper, Summer Cook, Renée Tomlin, Taylor Spivey, myself … we’re all at the top of the ITU standings,” Zaferes said. “We’re all from the same pathway. It’s great to see that it’s working. The Collegiate Recruitment Program has given us the support and the guidance to ensure that we improve quickly. It’s been awesome.” 

    On the men’s side, Matt McElroy ran collegiately at Northern Arizona University and began competing as an elite triathlete in 2015. McElroy had a quick rise in the sport, claiming two ITU World Cup medals in 2016, one in 2017 and two in 2018. He was a part of two medal-winning ITU World Triathlon Mixed Relay teams in 2018, and in 2017 he teamed with Kasper, Zaferes and Ben Kanute to claim the silver medal at the 2017 ITU Mixed Relay World Championships.

    Morgan Pearson, who ran collegiately at the University of Colorado, has also become a vital member of the U.S. Mixed Relay team. In his first season as an elite triathlete, Pearson joined Tomlin, Spivey and Jason West to win the 2018 Sarasota-Bradenton CAMTRI Mixed Relay American Championships in addition to earning four individual top-10 finishes on the ITU World Cup circuit.

    Delivering Olympic gold

    Gwen Jorgensen famously went from a Certified Public Accountant at Ernst & Young to Olympic gold medalist thanks to the Collegiate Recruitment Program. 

    In 2010, U.S. Olympian and Collegiate Recruitment Program Manager Barb Lindquist identified Jorgensen’s talent (she was a standout swimmer and runner at Wisconsin), snatching her away from the accountant job and inserting her into the CRP. 

    “The CRP gave me an opportunity to continue sport post-college,” Jorgensen said. “I wanted to be active, but felt my time in athletics and swimming were done. Barb Lindquist and the CRP helped guide me into a new sport and gave me insight into what it took to be a top-level athlete. Barb told me that on paper, I was good enough to be an Olympian.”
    Lindquist was right. 

    In her second season as an elite, Jorgensen earned three ITU World Cup podium finishes and she qualified for the 2012 Olympic Games, finishing 38th after sustaining a flat tire on the bike. But between 2013 and 2015, Jorgensen was nearly unbeatable. She went on an unprecedented 12-win streak in ITU World Triathlon Series events before claiming the United States’ first Olympic gold medal in triathlon at the 2016 Olympic Games.

    Are you the next USA Triathlon star?

    As a collegiate runner, you may have the skills needed to join these talented athletes in the highest levels of triathlon after graduation. USA Triathlon is looking for males running in the range of 14:00 for the 5k or 3:46 for the 1500m and females at 16:18 and 4:22.5. 

    The next steps are simple: visit usatriathlon.org/crp to see if your track PRs are fast enough to meet the A standard for the Collegiate Recruitment Program. If your PRs are close to the A standard, contact CRP Manager Barb Lindquist at barb.lindquist@usatriathlon.org to learn more about the swim benchmark test and your next steps.

    Athletes who meet the standards are taken through the processes and skills needed to become an elite triathlete, streamlining and professionalizing the athlete’s growth in triathlon, with the goal of finding Olympic medalists. This process starts during the summer Collegiate Recruitment Program Camp at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Selected recruits then receive a CRP Scholarship which supports the athlete financially to train full-time in a squad environment.

    Even if you’re not sure if triathlon is the right next step in your athletic career, graduates of the program would recommend keeping it as an open option.

    “Give it a shot and see what you think. When I first got started I knew nothing about triathlon. I'm not even sure I knew triathlon was in the Olympics,” Zaferes said. “However, I was guided by many awesome professionals, and it didn't take me long to fall in love with the sport. You may not know what you're going to do next, but this is an opportunity that can be life-changing. I have learned so much about myself and future dreams and aspirations, both in and out of sport.”