As of next year, the University of San Francisco will be adding a new sport to their roster. The NCAA Women’s Triathlon Program will officially launch in Fall 2019.
Triathlon is the fastest-growing women’s NCAA sport, and USF will be the fifth school to instate the sport at the Division I level. The NCAA Women’s Triathlon Program will be looking to draw a team of at least 15 people.
On why USF Athletics added the program now, Deputy Athletic Director and Senior Woman Administrator Joan McDermott said, “We were looking to add more opportunities for female students. So, we just started looking at various sports and what could fit on our campus, and in San Francisco.”
Following in the footsteps of Arizona State University, USF will inaugurate Triathlon as a sport club for the 2018-2019 academic year, prior to launching it on an intercollegiate level. This decision, according to McDermott, will build interest amongst the student body. In terms of funding, USF has received the Women’s Emerging Sport Grant in order to assist in funding the sport – this grant represents both increased equality in sports and increased opportunity for female athletes. The grant won’t cover all costs, but will assist greatly in getting the sport off the ground in its infantile years.
With the presence of multiple male-dominated sports on campus, USF was looking to add more chances for women to get involved in the athletic landscape. Approximately 62 percent of the student body is female, but the percentage of female athletes does not quite add up to that figure. “Your female-male student athlete population should mirror the student body,” McDermott said. “We’re trying to find ways to add more female opportunities, and in sports that we know there will be a lot of interest, and also fits in our campus.”
While the department is now thrilled about welcoming the Triathlon, it was not easy to find a NCAA women’s sport that would fit both USF and San Francisco. Despite having very successful athletic programs on-campus, being in the middle of a city can prove to be an issue when installing a new sport. “Softball is a conference sport,” McDermott said. “We can’t build a field on campus; there’s nowhere to go.” When considering crew – the popular tandem rowing sport – they ran into the same issue of having to go miles off-campus in order to practice. Triathlon, on the other hand, will allow USF athletes to utilize the natural and social landscapes already present in the area.
It is recommended that Triathlon athletes train in natural bodies of water. With USF’s proximity to the Bay, future athletes will be able to train in ideal conditions near Fisherman’s Wharf. Additionally, Golden Gate Park, the Presidio and the East Bay hills will provide excellent terrain for training for the cycling and running portions of the sport.
The physical landscape of San Francisco is as equally important to the sport as its social landscape. “Quite a few” Triathlon meets happen in the Bay Area, McDermott pointed out. “There’s some very good Triathlon clubs in the area,” she said. “So we knew there was a lot of interest and we’re hoping that they will help support our program.”
“That’s kind of been our thought process,” McDermott said. “What fits for us at the University of San Francisco, and makes sense.” And Triathlon, it seems, makes perfect sense for our student landscape.