(MSUB Athletics release)
BILLINGS – There is a new varsity sport coming to the Montana State University Billings department of intercollegiate athletics beginning in the fall of 2019.
“We are very excited to introduce women’s triathlon as our 16th varsity sport here at MSUB,” announced Yellowjacket director of athletics Krista Montague on Monday. “This addition aligns perfectly with the program of NCAA Division II sports that we already offer, and will aid us dually in creating opportunities for young women to compete as well as attract additional, successful students to our university.”
Currently recognized by the NCAA among the emerging sports category, women’s triathlon is one of the most rapidly growing competitive sports at the collegiate level. The sport is sanctioned by USA Triathlon, and consists of a 750-meter open-water swim, a draft-legal 20-kilometer bike ride, and a five-kilometer run.
“I have been tremendously impressed with the ambition for growth at this institution, and the addition of women’s triathlon to our athletic department’s offerings only bolsters that notion further,” commented first-year MSUB chancellor Dr. Dan Edelman. “Part of our mission is to provide students with opportunities to grow and be successful, both in the classroom and within various other learning environments. Athletics is one of those learning environments that is crucial to the university through the platform it provides for our students, and this opportunity to grow within athletics is something we are excited to be taking advantage of.”
MSUB has applied for a significant grant made available through USA Triathlon, to help with startup expenses for the sport. The search for a head coach will commence immediately. The USA Triathlon Foundation Women’s Emerging Sport Grant is distributed to select NCAA membership institutions to develop, implement, and sustain women’s triathlon programs at the NCAA varsity level.
Women’s triathlon will become the 16th varsity sport offered by MSUB, which currently offers men’s and women’s basketball, soccer, cross country, track and field, and golf, women’s volleyball, baseball, and softball. Women’s triathlon has already gained popularity within MSUB’s geographic region, with fellow NCAA Division II school Black Hills State University (Spearfish, South Dakota) offering the sport and providing MSUB with a potential dual-meet competitor within close proximity.
“We are committed to gender equality at MSUB, as outlined in our strategic plan, and we are proud to offer this growing and unique opportunity of a multi-sport future for female athletes,” said Montague. “We are excited to be a trailblazer for women and help grow this sport.”
“Our university strives to promote and emphasize opportunities for women, and the addition of women’s triathlon will help us achieve this goal,” Edelman commented. “This sport empowers women to compete in an environment requiring multiple talents, just like in society.”
The pursuit of a unique and competitive sports array has long been a staple of the MSUB athletic department, particularly within the state of Montana. MSUB was the first university in the state to add men’s and women’s soccer (1996) and softball (2002), and remains as the lone four-year school to offer baseball. Now, it will become the first university in Montana to offer women’s triathlon.
“Athletics is committed to supporting the overall mission of our university,” said Montague, “With student-athletes continuing to be leaders in graduation rates, retention rates, and overall GPA, adding women’s triathlon is a natural fit which will only enhance our overall program and university.”
Emerging sports fall into a special category within the NCAA, with the goal being to grow to the point of becoming a national championship sport. Established in 2014, women’s triathlon has a 10-year window – until 2024 – to reach its goal of 40 member schools to become eligible for an NCAA championship.