DU Triathlon Team Coach Barbara Perkins Shares Behind the Scenes to New Program

A couple of weeks ago the University of Denver announced its decision to roll out a varsity women’s triathlon team. And, coaching that team is Barbara Perkins. 303 interviewed Barbara to learn more about her, what it’s like to be at the helm of a first year program, what her priorities are and how she hopes to deal with it all during the current challenges of COVID.

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Here is some more information about Barbara. In 2019, Barbara was the first female to cross the finish line at Ironman Santa Rosa. She punched her ticket to Kona for the second time. In 2019, Barbara came in 5th at Galveston 70.3, 4th at Boulder 70.3, as well as competing in both the 70.3 World Championships and the Ironman World Championships. In 2018, Barbara finished 2nd at Eagleman 70.3, 10th at Coeur d’Alene 70.3, and 8th at Indian Wells 70.3. During the 2017 season, Barbara completed her first Ironman World Championship and finished 21st in her age group. In 2017, finished 4th overall amateur female at Steelhead 70.3 and 2nd Age in her group. At Ironman Louisville 2016, she won her age group and secured her first Kona Qualification. Barbara has qualified for the 70.3 World Championships for 6 consecutive years in a row. She has represented the USA at ITU Olympic Distance World Championships in 2015.  Barbara registered her first age group win at IM New Orleans 70.3 in 2015. She finished 4th at her first Ironman in Lake Tahoe, 9th at Ironman New Zealand and 8th at Ironman Texas. She has also been a USAT All-American and a Gold Ironman All-World Gold athlete multiple times.

University of Denver adds Women’s Triathlon to Varsity Sports

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — USA Triathlon, along with Karlton Creech, University of Denver Vice Chancellor for Athletics, Recreation and Ritchie Center Operations, today announced that the University of Denver will add women’s triathlon to its varsity sport offerings. The school is the 37th in the nation, the second in Colorado and the ninth at the NCAA Division I level to add the sport. 

DU joins Colorado Mesa University (Grand Junction, Colo., DII) as the only schools in Colorado to offer varsity women’s triathlon. The inaugural team will begin competition in the fall 2020 season.

The addition of women’s triathlon as DU’s 18th intercollegiate varsity sport is made possible through a grant from the USA Triathlon Foundation. 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 varsity level.

“On behalf of the University of Denver, we are excited to add the sport of women’s triathlon to our fall lineup,” Creech said. “The USA Triathlon Foundation grant, and grants like it, provide excellent opportunities for colleges and universities to sponsor emerging women’s sports across the country. This addition will help us attract new students from across the country as our coursework, our campus and the Rocky Mountain backdrop provide future Denver triathletes with the opportunity to pursue success at the highest level in the classroom and in competition.” 

“The addition of the University of Denver to the women’s collegiate triathlon family is groundbreaking for several reasons,” said Rocky Harris, USA Triathlon CEO. “Colorado is one of the nation’s thriving triathlon hubs. With DU’s prestigious academic reputation, and as the first Division I program in the state to add the sport, the school is sure to attract top student-athletes and become a force on the national stage.”

Barbara Perkins, assistant coach of the men’s and women’s swim teams at DU, has been named the program’s first head coach. Perkins is an accomplished triathlete, finishing the 2019 season ranked 30th in the world and ninth in the U.S. for her age group in IRONMAN’s All-World Rankings. The former Air Force assistant is a two-time IRONMAN World Championship finisher and six-time IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship qualifier.

“I am extremely excited for women’s triathlon to find a new home at the University of Denver,” Perkins said. “With my background in coaching swimming at the DI level as well as my racing experience as an elite triathlete myself, I am confident that I am the right person to get this program started and feel beyond fortunate to have been selected for the position. Triathlon is an emerging sport and is giving young women new opportunities to compete at the collegiate level. I am thrilled that Denver has the opportunity to be a part of the process to continue to grow this sport.”

DU will benefit from competitive opportunities with programs located throughout USA Triathlon’s North Central Region, including Black Hills State University (Spearfish, S.D., DII), Calvin University (Grand Rapids, Mich., DIII), Central College (Pella, Iowa, DIII), Coe College (Cedar Rapids, Iowa, DIII), Colorado Mesa, Concordia University Wisconsin (Mequon, Wis., DIII), Drury University (Springfield, Mo., DII), Millikin University (Decatur, Ill., DIII), Montana State University Billings (Billings, Mont., DII), North Central College (Naperville, Ill., DIII), Trine University (Angola, Ind., DIII) and the University of South Dakota (Vermillion, S.D., DI).

NCAA Division I programs Arizona State University (Tempe, Ariz.) and Texas Christian University (Fort Worth, Texas) are also nearby for regional competition.

“Denver is the absolute perfect place for the sport of triathlon,” Perkins said. “Our facilities include a 50-meter Olympic-sized swimming pool, treadmills and space for a smart bike trainer studio, Washington Park is less than a mile away from campus and is the ideal set up for closed circuit bike rides, runs or brick work outs, and we are 15 minutes away from a multitude of rides in the mountains. We have so many resources at our fingertips including the home of USA Triathlon and the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center just down the road in Colorado Springs. Colorado is the home to many of the world’s best professional triathletes and will serve as a great jumping off point to the future of our sport. The future is bright for triathlon at the University of Denver, and we can’t wait to get started this fall.”

The NCAA named triathlon an Emerging Sport for Women in 2014, a designation that gives USA Triathlon a 10-year window to demonstrate the sport’s sustainability at the NCAA level by recruiting at least 40 varsity programs. The governing body is quickly approaching that goal with momentum on its side, as 28 schools have added the sport since January of 2017, and 36 schools have done so since 2014.

Women’s triathlon is a fall sport, and the varsity season includes three regional qualifiers followed by the Women’s Collegiate Triathlon National Championships. Races are sprint-distance, featuring a 750-meter open-water swim, draft-legal 20-kilometer bike and 5-kilometer run.

For more information about triathlon as an NCAA Emerging Sport for Women, visit usatriathlon.org/ncaa. Interested in helping to identify and recruit the next women’s varsity collegiate triathlon program? Inquiries may be directed to Tim Yount, USA Triathlon Chief Sport Development Officer, at Tim.yount@usatriathlon.org.

Women’s Varsity Collegiate Triathlon Programs (as of July 1, 2020): 

NCAA Division I 

Arizona State University (Tempe, Ariz.) 
Delaware State University (Dover, Del.)
East Tennessee State University (Johnson City, Tenn.) 
Hampton University (Hampton, Va.) 
Texas Christian University (Fort Worth, Texas)
University of Denver (Denver, Colo.)
University of San Francisco (San Francisco. Calif.) 
University of South Dakota (Vermillion, S.D.) 
Wagner College (Staten Island, N.Y.) 

NCAA Division II 

American International College (Springfield, Mass.)
Belmont Abbey College (Belmont, N.C.) 
Black Hills State University (Spearfish, S.D.) 
Colorado Mesa University (Grand Junction, Colo.) 
Daemen College (Amherst, N.Y.) 
Davis & Elkins College (Elkins, W.V.) 
Drury University (Springfield, Mo.) 
Lenoir-Rhyne University (Hickory, N.C.)
King University (Bristol, Tenn.) 
Montana State University Billings (Billings, Mont.) 
Queens University of Charlotte (Charlotte, N.C.) 
St. Thomas Aquinas College (Sparkill, N.Y.) 
Southern Wesleyan University (Central, S.C.) 
Wingate University (Wingate, N.C.)

NCAA Division III 
Calvin College (Grand Rapids, Mich.) 
Central College (Pella, Iowa)
Coe College (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)
Concordia University Wisconsin (Mequon, Wis.) 
Eastern Mennonite University (Harrisonburg, Va.)
Guilford College (Greensboro, N.C.)
Mary Baldwin University (Staunton, Va.)
Millikin University (Decatur, Ill.) 
Milwaukee School of Engineering (Milwaukee, Wis.) 
North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) 
Northern Vermont University-Johnson (Johnson, Vt.) 
Transylvania University (Lexington, Ky.)
Trine University (Angola, Ind.) 
Willamette University (Salem, Ore.)

About USA Triathlon

USA Triathlon is proud to serve as the National Governing Body for triathlon, as well as duathlon, aquathlon, aquabike, winter triathlon, off-road triathlon and paratriathlon in the United States. Founded in 1982, USA Triathlon sanctions more than 4,300 events and connects with more than 400,000 members each year, making it the largest multisport organization in the world. In addition to its work at the grassroots level with athletes, coaches, and race directors — as well as the USA Triathlon Foundation — USA Triathlon provides leadership and support to elite athletes competing at international events, including International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Championships, Pan American Games and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. USA Triathlon is a proud member of the ITU and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC).