BRISTOL, Tenn. King University has announced the addition of women's triathlon as the school's next intercollegiate sport, becoming the 27th school in the nation to sponsor women's triathlon as an NCAA varsity sport. Women's triathlon received approval as an NCAA Emerging Sport for Women in 2014, and has a 10-year window to demonstrate sustainability as an NCAA sport option. Triathlon competes in the fall, with the NCAA Women's Collegiate Triathlon National Championships occurring in November each year.
King has named Athletic Director David Hicks as the head coach of women's triathlon. Hicks is a frequent age group competitor in triathlons of various distances, having completed one full IRONMAN, four IRONMAN 70.3 races, and a variety of Olympic and sprint triathlons over the past five years.
"I'm excited about this opportunity," said Hicks. "I've followed collegiate triathlon since it received emerging sport status in 2014, and feel like now is the perfect time to launch the sport at King. I have developed a passion for the sport, and am eager to begin recruiting and preparing for our first season."
King becomes the second university in the Tri-Cities to sponsor women's collegiate triathlon at the NCAA level, joining East Tennessee State University (ETSU), who finished third among NCAA Division I programs at this year's National Championships. ETSU head coach Janine Pleasant, who serves on the board of the College Triathlon Coaches Association, played a key supporting role in helping King launch women's triathlon.
"ETSU is very excited to have King University join us in representing the Tri-Cities Region," said Pleasant. "It is a testament to our strong triathlon culture here to have two teams in the same region. David Hicks is a competitive triathlete himself as well as a good friend. I look forward to working together to promote the sport and develop incredible athletes."
King was awarded the USA Triathlon Foundation Women's Emerging Sport Grant, which was established in 2014 to help foster growth of women's triathlon at the college level. As a recipient of the grant, King will receive $70,000 from the USA Triathlon Foundation to offset startup costs and supplement funding for the first three years.
"USA Triathlon is fully invested in growing women's triathlon at the collegiate level," said Hicks. "My conversations with their leadership over the past few years have made that very apparent, and the funding from the grant will allow King to jump-start this program."
USA Triathlon sponsors more than 4,000 races annually, and boasts over 400,000 members, of which women make up roughly 40 percent.
"USA Triathlon proudly welcomes King University to the women's varsity triathlon family, and we look forward to the increased opportunities this addition will bring young athletes in the Mideast Region," said Rocky Harris, USA Triathlon CEO. "The university leadership at King has been engaged and enthusiastic throughout this initial process, and I am confident they will build a strong and sustainable program over the next year."
"Triathlon is appealing to me as a collegiate sport, as it fits well within King's mission and vision," said Hicks. "It is a lifelong sport, and as we aim to prepare students to excel in every aspect of life, triathlon allows them to excel at the highest levels of NCAA competition, while providing them a sport that promotes health and fitness for a lifetime."
Collegiate triathlon is draft-legal – meaning athletes may draft off of each other on the bike portion of the race, which distinguishes it from many other triathlons. Races are sprint distances, consisting of a 750-meter swim, followed by a 20k bike and a 5k run. For more information about varsity women's collegiate triathlon, visit usatriathlon.org/ncaa.
For more information on King's women's triathlon team, please visit www.kingtornado.com.