Despite trend, U won’t add triathlon

Sam Kraemer

The NCAA recently started recognizing triathlons as part of a push to include more female student-athletes in the league.
 
Though University of Minnesota athletics officials say the school won’t be adding the sport in the near future, colleges elsewhere are starting up teams to provide more opportunities to women in collegiate athletics. 
 
“In Minnesota, it’s hard because we have the winter for the majority of the year, and it’s going to be a fall sport,” said Mélanie Rabino, a University chemistry junior and president of the school’s triathlon team.
 
Right now, the Division I schools that are starting women’s triathlon teams are Arizona State and East Tennessee State.
 
Though there are no plans to create a formal program at the University, the school’s club team is talented and has held its own on the national stage.
 
This year, the women’s team led the Midwest Collegiate Triathlon Conference with 975 total points, nearly 300 more than second-place Wisconsin.
 
Minnesota also placed 17th at the Collegiate Club national championships over the weekend.
 
Success at the club level has made the team hungry for a spot at the NCAA level.
 
“Especially for us girls, it’s really exciting to see that change coming [to the NCAA],” Rabino said.
 
Rabino met with athletics officials last fall to discuss the adding the sport after she learned that the USA Triathlon Foundation created a grant to help eight schools start up programs. 
 
But the meeting wasn’t enough to persuade the University’s department.
 
“We’re not looking to add any additional programs because we feel like we offer a broad range of programs to student-athletes, and we are responsible to … stay fiscally solvent,” said Chris Werle, senior associate athletics director for strategic communications.
 
Jess Luscinski, the USA Triathlon’s NCAA and collegiate triathlon coordinator, was hired to assist the league and its member schools in creating women’s triathlon programs.
 
Since the work began last year, she’s started discussions at several universities. 
 
And throughout the process, Luscinski said she’s realized that there isn’t a “cookie cutter approach” to pitching the triathlon. 
 
The triathlon is one of four emerging sports that the NCAA is recognizing to include more female student-athletes. With the “emerging sport” status, 40 schools must sponsor programs within a 10-year period. And after meeting that standard, it could become an official sport.
 
If the University’s athletics department started a women’s triathlon team, Rabino said the team would have to travel extensively to attend meets because they would be located far from Minnesota.
 
But despite that, she said, Minneapolis is an ideal location for the triathlon.
 
“We have a lot of enthusiastic people here, and Minnesota in general, is a very active state. … I think the triathlon lifestyle fits pretty well with that,” Rabino said.