When triathlon earned NCAA Emerging Sport for Women status in January 2014, it was a victory for many collegiate athletes who had chosen to compete in triathlon at the club level instead of Division I running or swimming.
Though the decision came too late for some of today’s top collegiate women, they’re celebrating the impact it will have on the sport — and are honored to be paving the way for youth and junior girls by competing in the inaugural 2014 women’s collegiate triathlon season.
“The race is going to bring full focus to triathlon as an emerging sport for collegiate student athletes. It will be a gateway in opening opportunities for young triathletes, looking toward the sport for college scholarships — competing in what they love at the NCAA level,” Stony Brook University triathlete Caitlin Dowd said. “I cannot wait to see the competition in Florida.”
The 2014 season consists of a series of draft-legal exhibition events, showcasing the structure and rules that will be implemented when triathlon is granted official NCAA sport status.
A talented field of women ages 16 to 25 is set to compete at the Women’s Collegiate Triathlon National Championships, an invitation-only race that will be hosted in Clermont, Florida, on Nov. 2.
“This event is a milestone for us following the NCAA vote in January, and we’re thrilled to see the nation’s top triathletes compete in the first iteration of our Women’s Collegiate National Championships,” USA Triathlon CEO Rob Urbach said. “This sets the stage for championship events moving forward, and we believe this will be a noteworthy demonstration for schools who are considering adding triathlon to their athletic program.”Nearly 20 schools will be represented, including a strong showing from UCLA, who took home the women’s team title at the 2014 USA Triathlon Collegiate Club National Championships in April.
UCLA senior Kelly Kosmo helped bring her team to that win with a podium finish in the Draft-Legal Collegiate Championships. She looks forward to having her teammates by her side in Florida.
“It’s great to be part of such a strong team with great athletes, and even better people,” Kosmo (Goleta, Calif.) said. “I’m excited to travel to Florida with my teammates and work together with them in the race. I know we’ve been working really hard so I’m super excited to see that pay off.”
Another athlete competing in Sunday’s national championship event is Bria Edwards, who raced on the Penn State women’s cross country team during her freshman year. Due to a series of injuries, Edwards (Hazle Township, Pa.) left the team and soon discovered triathlon, thanks to a recommendation from her brother.
“I didn’t even know what triathlons were,” said Edwards, who had been on YMCA swim teams since the age of 4 and got her start in running during middle school track and field.
Her first triathlon was the Great Clermont Triathlon in 2012, and she was hooked.
Since then, Edwards has elevated her training with the help of teammates, and in 2014, she won the open race at TriRock Philadelphia, finished on the podium for the 2014 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships, placed ninth at Collegiate Nationals and picked up age-group wins at a number of races.
She looks forward to closing out the season with this milestone event.
“It’s the first year — and the last year I’ll be able to do it,” said Edwards, who will graduate in May. “I’m really excited about the draft-legal format, and I like competing against people who are going to be better than me; it gives me a target to shoot for.”
University of California Santa Barbara athlete Savannah Dearden will also be toeing the line at the inaugural Women’s Collegiate Triathlon National Championships, and she looks forward to racing on home turf in Florida.
In high school, Dearden (St. Petersburg, Fla.) played soccer and ran cross country, partaking in triathlon as a form of cross-training during her junior and senior years.
“I fell in love with it and decided I didn’t want to run in school because I wanted to keep doing triathlon,” Dearden said.
She knows NCAA triathlon has the potential to make huge strides for the U.S. on an international level, and she wishes it happened sooner.
“Junior elites often have trouble making that jump to longer distances and bigger races, and having a competitive, in-between level for girls to participate in will really help them bridge the gap and be successful later down the pro circuit,” Dearden said.
The inaugural women’s triathlon season is the first step in closing that gap. For more information on triathlon as an NCAA Emerging Sport for Women, visit usatriathlon.org/ncaa.