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.”
United States Naval Academy Triathlon Team
Chomping on the heals of CU for the past few years at Nationals, the team placed second behind CU in 2012, while their women’s team took the overall in 2011. “With strong internal leadership, the team captains really keep the team together following the workout plans,” says head coach Billy Edwards.
After spending their spring break making that final training push towards Nationals, Edwards is confident heading to Tempe. “This year we are just really talented from top to bottom,” he states. “They are just so internally motivated.”
Follow the team at Facebook.com/usnatriathlon.
University of Arizona Tri Cats
After placing second overall for the men and fifth in the mixed team relay last year in Alabama, head coach Brian Grasky says the team is looking for a strong performance at Nationals. “While the women’s team is young, we’ll see a large improvement over last year and expect some breakthrough results by several of the girls,” he says.
A strong showing in March at the Mountain Collegiate Conference Championships has the team feeling prepared for Nationals in a few weeks.
“In my seven years of coaching the team, this is the hardest working group I’ve seen and are showing great promise for the championships,” says Grasky. “I’ve been quite impressed with this team this year. We’re also enjoying that the championship race is in our home state and are looking forward to showing our strengths to our home crowd!”
Follow the team at Arizonatricats.com.
With one of the largest collegiate triathlon teams in the country, the Cal Tri team will be sending its largest-ever team to Nationals. “We have been blessed with good depth over the years, and it is certainly a strength of ours this year as well,” said head coach John Dahlz.
After having two women place in the top six, winning the mixed relay and placing third overall as a team last year, Dahlz believes the team has all the pieces needed to make a statement in Tempe. “I expect our boys to step it up, but the girls will carry the day for us,” says Dahlz. “With last year’s results, I think we can really compete with teams like CU and the military academies.”
Follow the team at Caltriathlon.com
Finishing last year with a second place in the mixed team relay, a sixth-place overall mixed team and the women’s champion Marissa Ferrante (who will be back racing this year) has the Stanford Triathlon team on the radar for another successful performance.
“The team has unity and cohesiveness, which is always a huge part of Stanford triathlon,” says Coach Gina Kehr. “We have depth across the board,” adds coach Bruce Smith. “Our training sessions have been going better than expected, and you can see how much the team supports each other.”
A podium overall for both the men’s and women’s teams is the goal this April. “We know they can both get on the podium,” said Smith. “The potential is there. They just have to go out and grab it.”