North Central College’s new women’s triathlon program will kick off its inaugural season with a high-profile race. The College will host the Central Region Qualifier for the Collegiate National Championships on Labor Day Monday, Sept. 5, in downtown Naperville.
The event represents the College’s first time hosting a home triathlon competition; because the event is also a postseason qualifier, USA Triathlon, the sport’s governing body, will provide resources such as equipment and national publicity.
“It’s a good way for everyone to see our program, North Central College and Naperville,” says triathlon head coach Jenny Garrison. There are just 12 NCAA collegiate programs across all divisions; North Central is one of four in Division III.
“We want to showcase the College and the city because it’s the beginning of triathlon at the college level,” says Kurt Woodward, who will serve as the race director. “Five years down the road, I expect it to grow so big, we’d have to fight to get a race like this.”
Garrison and Woodward describe the downtown Naperville course as very “spectator-friendly.” Fans will see competitors pass by multiple times. The 50 to 75 competitors will begin with a swim at Centennial Beach, bike a four-loop course and return to Jefferson Street to transition to the running portion. The finish will be located in front of Naperville Central High School.
While the process of permits, approvals and certifications has been complex, establishing a home course provides a huge boost to the early development of the program.
“We’re really starting from scratch with a timeline, protocols, everything,” adds Woodward. Information about the event and North Central’s women’s triathlon program can be found at northcentralcardinals.com/triathlon.
The Women's Collegiate Triathlon National Championship will be held in New Orleans on Nov. 5.
By Hannah Bevis ’16
Coach builds program from ground up
Head women’s triathlon coach Jenny Garrison has been building one of the first programs of its kind. North Central College was one of eight schools in the nation to receive a three-year grant of $70,000 from the USA Triathlon Emerging Sport Grant program. A former professional triathlete and experienced coach, Garrison is exploring the recruitment process.
“I never thought this would ever be a college sport, and I wish it was when I was in college,” said Garrison. “Triathlon has been a club, not an NCAA sport.”
Because the competitive environment is very different from established college sports, finding athletes to compete has been challenging. Without the ability to recruit directly from high school programs, Garrison has traveled to youth and junior triathlon events across the Midwest seeking prospective student-athletes. The long-term goal is to have a roster 10 to 12. She anticipates next year’s recruiting efforts to go smoothly as she establishes contacts and builds relationships with area schools and student-athletes.
This spring, a group is meeting as a club six times a week, alternating between running and swimming practices. Once fall term begins, training will get intense, with daily practices and added cycling workouts.