After being approved as a new emerging sport for women in 2014, NCAA Triathlon (National Collegiate Athletic Association) went from strength to strength. By February of this year, forty schools had varsity triathlon teams, meeting the key benchmark required for a recommendation to become an NCAA championship sport.
While the popularity of women’s triathlon continues to grow in the United States, little is known about it on this side of the Atlantic. With the collegiate sport system in America so different from what we have in the UK, it is sometimes overlooked as an option for UK athletes.
Luckily we caught up Chelsea is burningformer American triathlete and current assistant coach for the University of San Francisco triathlon team, to better understand the system ahead of the 2022 Women’s Collegiate Triathlon National Championships next weekend in Tempe, Arizona.
From WTCS athlete to NCAA coach
During her professional career, Chelsea Burns has raced all over the world at the highest level, with podiums at World Cup events in Miyazaki, Tiszaujvaros, Huelva and Madrid. Since stepping away from professional racing, she has been sharing her experience with the next generation of talent at the University of San Francisco as an assistant coach.
On a day-to-day basis, Burns can be found performing a range of duties other than writing training schedules, with his workday as an NCAA coach involving office responsibilities such as “NCAA compliance reporting , travel logistics for errands, recruiting and budgeting”.
As a newer NCAA sport, a triathlon coach’s workload can be greatly magnified by the lack of resources available to coaching staff compared to more established sports such as football, cross country -country or swimming. While triathlon is “certainly moving forward”, Burns is keen to point out that it “still has a long way to go to reach the depth and quality of a sport like football”.
However, Burns believes that “once well-funded D1 athletic departments jump in and really believe in the sport,” the triathlon world, as well as schools, will reap the benefits. She thinks that in the future, triathlon within the NCAA framework can grow by having “more D1 schools, better race organization, and proper funding to pay coaches and provide enough scholarships to attract American and international athletes”.
The benefits of having triathlon as an NCAA sport, Burns points out, impact everyone, not just athletes. She thinks that for schools, having “smart, hard-working young women who drive departmental GPAs (grade point averages)” is important, while for national federations, having more women in the NCAA pipeline means “we could see some 2,028 Olympians come from this NCAA system. , maybe even 2024”.
Nationals on the horizon
In just over a week, the 2022 Women’s Collegiate Triathlon National Championships will travel to Tempe, Arizona for the fifth straight year as the Arizona State University (ASU) Sundevils seek to clinch their sixth title. by consecutive team.
Last year, San Francisco’s Kira Gupta-Baltazar and Gillian Cridge finished 1-3 for the Chelsea Burns side as the Dons came second in the overall team standings. Ahead of this year’s race, Burns said that “although we don’t have quite the firepower that we had in 2021, the team has a great team culture and I can’t wait to see the girls come together and be the best team possible on November 12”.
When asked if anyone could challenge ASU and prevent the Sundevils from securing a sixth straight title, Burns tipped Queens University, winners of last year’s DII, who in 2022 have been promoted to a D1 team. Burns said “it’s going to be tough” to beat ASU, she suggested “keeping an eye on Queens to give them a chance” would be a smart move.
The teams qualified for the championships in Tempe by competing in the regional championships in October. The Western Regional Championships in Missouri were won by Arizona State University, while the Eastern Regional Championships in Virginia were won by Queens University of Charlotte. The top four teams from each region will compete in the national championships in Tempe.
NCAA West Regional Qualifying Team Results:
- Arizona State University.
- University of Denver
- University of South Dakota.
- University of San Francisco.
NCAA East Regional Qualifying Team Results:
- Queens University of Charlotte.
- East Tennessee State University.
- Delaware State University.
- Wagner University.