Growing up in Barbados, Chara Hinds started racing in local youth triathlons. It was a new sport in the Caribbean, and as triathlon grew she progressed, too. In 2017, at 14-years-old, she raced her first international competition with a number of the islands competing against each other. She won the Barbados national title in 2020 and this summer got to race on the mixed relay team at the Commonwealth Games against world champions and Olympians.
“It gave me something to work towards,” she said.
And so when it came time to pick a university to attend, Hinds knew she wanted to continue her triathlon career and her studies. She started looking at universities in the U.S. and abroad — and found a home at Delaware State University and on their brand new women’s triathlon team.
“As an Afro-Caribbean person, the program at the HBCU really caught my attention,” she said. She reached out to the then-coach and he sold her on the possibilities for growing as a triathlete and a student.
DSU is one of a handful of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) that have added a varsity triathlon team to their athletic roster, launching their women’s team in the fall of 2021 — with Hinds on the squad as a freshman recruit.
Last year, the team took six freshmen to nationals in their first season. “None of us knew what to expect,” she said. “We were racing against a bunch of people who have experience and have been doing this for years.”
This year, they’re hoping to send an even bigger team to the Women’s Collegiate Triathlon National Championship race in Arizona on Nov. 12 and improve on their 2021 performance.
We tagged along with Hinds, now in her sophomore year, as the squad prepared for the regional qualifier race in Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia on Oct. 15 to understand what it takes as women’s triathlon hopes to become the next official NCAA sport.
A Day in the Life at DSU
Tuesday, Oct. 11
5:30 a.m. Wake up for swim practice.
Hinds lives in a dorm with three other triathletes on the team. Every morning their coach picks them up in the school van and drives them the ten minutes to the pool. Although there is a smaller pool on campus, the squad uses the bigger lap pool nearby for practices.
6:30 a.m. Swim practice.
Yes, they have swim practice every weekday morning at 6:30 a.m. — but Thursday workouts are optional to give the students a day off and a chance to catch-up on homework and sleep.
Their weekly workouts typically follow a schedule, with some variation based on races and school load. Every morning is a 6:30 a.m. swim, and then:
Monday: Strength after swim practice, followed by a run.
Tuesday: Bike ride in the afternoon with a run off the bike.
Wednesday: Track session later in the day.
Thursday: Optional bike ride.
Friday: An afternoon bike ride with a run off the bike.
Saturday: Long ride and run off the bike.
Sunday: Long run.
Because this week is a race week — the team will be heading to regionals on Thursday — Tuesday’s swim is a shorter race prep. They do: 8x100 pull, 6x150 with paddles, 4x200 with pull buoy and paddles, 4x25 sprint.
8 a.m. The team heads back to campus and eats breakfast together.
9:30 a.m. French class and then tutoring other students in the library.
Hinds is scheduled to tutor for certain hours each week, so if there’s no one that needs her help, then she tries to get her own homework done. In between practice and classes, she fits in her studying at the library or in her advisor’s office, so she doesn’t get stuck with finishing it up late at night.
12 p.m. Calculus class.
Hinds started out in engineering, but “I really liked the math part, but not the physics,” she said. Her adviser suggested she move into actuarial sciences instead, and switch her major to math.
Now, her course load this semester is:
- Intro to Business
- Linear Algebra
2 p.m. Chara and her suitemates ride the 15 minutes to the downtown campus to meet the rest of the team for a bike ride.
The main DSU campus is on the outskirts of Dover, Delaware (with another smaller campus downtown), and once the squad gets outside of town there are miles of country roads for them to enjoy, Hinds said. “Last week we rode from here to Maryland,” which actually isn’t as far as it sounds, she joked.
This week they just do a 90-minute ride, and then practice their mounts and dismounts before spending some time cleaning their bikes and packing up their stuff for racing this weekend. Even though they’ll be taking an eight-hour bus ride to regionals in Virginia, they still want to make sure they have all of their equipment ready to go, computers charged, and race shoes in bags before they leave on Thursday.
Triathlon is relatively unknown for most students at DSU and for residents in the city, said Hinds. When people see her and her teammates on their bikes, they want to know if they’re cyclists and what they’re doing. Once they explain triathlon, she said, “they’re really impressed, some people have never heard of it before, but when they do, they’re like ‘that’s so cool.’”
6 p.m. Finally, back to campus to shower and eat dinner.
And, then, it’s all about getting whatever studying in that she couldn’t finish earlier.
10:30 p.m. Bed time.
Hinds tries to get to bed by 9:30 p.m. most nights, “but some nights that doesn’t work out,” she said, because there’s just too much to do as a full-time student-athlete!