Colorado Mesa adds men’s and women’s triathlon to sports stable
Yes, triathlon is a collegiate sport.
And yes, Colorado Mesa is getting in on the ground floor. The Mavericks will offer men’s and women’s triathlon next fall, the first college in Colorado to offer the emerging sport.
Triathlon will bring CMU’s number of varsity sports to 26.
Only 16 other schools across the nation offer the sport now, said Tom Spicer, CMU’s athletic director, and when 40 schools field teams, it can become an NCAA championship sport. USA Triathlon currently runs a collegiate championship.
The Mavericks hope to have 6-8 student-athletes per team next fall, and Geoff Hanson, CMU’s swim coach who will coach the triathletes, said he’s already had one senior swimmer talk to him about using his fifth year of eligibility to compete in triathlon.
“It’s more common than you think,” Hanson said of swimmers jumping into triathlon, as well as track athletes and cyclists crossing over. “It’s a way to keep swimming and a way to stay in shape, and adding other sports.
“There’s a big base of talent in the Front Range, Phoenix, a lot of youth triathlons. It’s a matter of getting the word out to some of these folks.”
Spicer said there are more than 400 scholastic youth registered with USA Triathlon on the Front Range, so the Mavericks have a built-in recruiting base.
“It makes logical sense to take a look at it,” Spicer said. “We’ve got the greatest outdoor exposure to activities, it is a life-long sport initiative and we need to take a look at it.
“There is interest, and we’ve got a young man (Ben Hoffman) that is pretty well-known in triathlon, Ironman, who just had a really good weekend that is making it real distinctive, visible.”
Black Hills State has had women’s triathlon the past two years, with Arizona State the only other program in the western region.
Spicer said initially, CMU will have $8,000 in scholarships available, hoping that amount will grow, and the majority of the equipment needed is gear to keep the athletes’ bicycles maintained — and they hope, like the cycling team, it’s a BYOB (bring your own bike) program.
Hanson is looking at entering four triathlons in the region next fall, including the West Regional in Berkeley, California, and qualifying for nationals in Tucson. Most competitions are USA Triathlon open triathlons.
College triathlons are “sprint” distances, a half-mile open-water swim, 25-kilometer bike race and 5K run. The Mavs will do the majority of swim training at El Pomar Natatorium.
Hanson was a triathlete after college, then coached triathletes in Tucson and while he was the women’s swim coach at Western State.
“Never in a team setting,” he said. “I think that will be a really cool, unique thing to do, with college athletes in a team setting. Typically it’s a 100 percent individual endeavor.”