With support from USA Triathlon, Central College will add women’s triathlon as a varsity sport.
According to athletics director Eric Van Kley, it will serve as a club sport this fall before receiving varsity status in 2020. Women’s collegiate triathlons feature sprint-distance races including a 750-meter open-water swim, a draft-legal 20-kilometer bike ride and a 5-kilometer run. The varsity season includes three regional qualifiers followed by the Women’s Collegiate Triathlon National Championships.
Central is the 31st school nationwide and the second in Iowa to offer women’s triathlon. Coe College added it in March.
“USA Triathlon is proud to welcome Central College to the women’s NCAA triathlon family as the 31st school in the nation to offer the sport,” said Rocky Harris, USA Triathlon CEO. “With a location that offers ample regional competition with other varsity programs, and a rigorous, service-oriented education, Central provides an ideal opportunity for aspiring female student-athletes to purse triathlon at the collegiate level.”
It will be Central’s 20th intercollegiate sport and the first new offering since women’s soccer was introduced in 1995. The college is also adding women’s bowling and men’s volleyball as club sports but is not committed to those as intercollegiate varsity sports.
“Central College is excited to play a leadership role in promoting women’s triathlon and offering this additional opportunity for our female student-athletes,” said athletics director Eric Van Kley. “Nationally, interest in triathlon is surging, and there is a growing need for more collegiate programs. With Central’s championship athletics tradition and outstanding facilities, we think triathlon is a good fit here.”
Central is the 13th NCAA Division III institution with a women’s triathlon program and the eighth Division III school in the Midwest, joining Calvin College (Mich.), Concordia University (Wis.), Millikin University (Ill.), Milwaukee School of Engineering (Wis.), North Central College (Ill.) and Trine University (Ind.). Others are Eastern Mennonite University (Va.), Northern Vermont University-Johnson, Transylvania University (Ky.) and Willamette University (Ore.).
Van Kley said Central will launch a search for a head coach and expects to have one in place in early fall.
Central was awarded the USA Triathlon Foundation Women’s Emerging Sport Grant, which provides funding to select NCAA membership institutions to develop, implement and sustain women’s triathlon programs at the varsity level. Central will receive $50,000 from the USA Triathlon Foundation to offset startup costs and supplement funding for the program’s first three years.
The NCAA named triathlon an Emerging Sport for Women in 2014, a designation that gives the sport a 10-year window to demonstrate sustainability at the NCAA level. USA Triathlon is rapidly nearing its goal of recruiting 40 schools by 2024.