Bringing the football team back to Johnson City created a venue for a new sports team here at East Tennessee State University.
Because Title IX requires balance between men’s and women’s athletics, the rebirth of football produced a need for more women athletes at the university.
And this fall, Women’s Triathlon was born.
“Dr. Brian Johnston and I were interested in starting a program,” said Head Coach Janine Pleasant. “I knew prior that he talked with Dr. Richard Sanders about it and USA Triathlon added it as NCAA.”
This is Pleasant’s first year at ETSU, but she has coached individuals who compete in triathlons for five years. She herself has competed in triathlons since 1998.
The team is added under NCAA as an NCAA Emerging Sport. This means that the NCAA will give it a three-year grant at the school, and it will go under a trial-like period where the NCAA will try it out to see if it catches enough interest.
If so, they will keep it, and if not, it will be removed.
Schools have had triathlon clubs for some time now, but there are now 13 schools in the U.S. with an actual sporting team. All schools compete together no matter the division.
ETSU held their first ever triathlon practice on Tuesday, Aug. 16.
“It all came together at just the right time,” Pleasant said.
A triathlon consists of swimming, biking and running. You swim for 750 meters, cycle for 20k and run for 5k.
“The total time is what counts,” Pleasant said. “The time it takes you to get from one sport to the next is just as important as the actual event. You have to be quick.”
The ETSU Triathlon team got to see just how quick they were in their first competition at the Central Regional Qualifier in Naperville, Illinois.
Two players on the team came out of the competition finishing in the top 10 out of 28 competitors, Chloe Ford (Johnson City, Tenn.) and McKenzie Killian (Bluff City, Tenn.).
“Both came from competitive swimming,” Pleasant said. “They are well in running and cycling, just really well at swimming.”
The last athlete on the current Big-3 triathlon team is Sarah Zimmer (Farragut, Tenn.). Pleasant feels that she is a great addition to the team with her strength in running.
Pleasant also said that there are two potential athletes from Germany looking to be added to the team.
Their next race at the Anchor Splash Triathlon in Oak Ridge, Tenn. will be the last completion before the East Regional Qualifier where, if the team comes in the top three, they can take five athletes to the National Championship.
Pleasant said that she wants to have 10-12 athletes at least by the end of the season to give the team a better shot at going to the National Championship.
The National Championship will be on Nov. 5.