Say hello to Eryn Schmisseur: Did you know you could race triathlon in college? Ever wondered what it would be like to race in college? Do you want to send your son or daughter to a college with a triathlon team? Check out Eryn’s experience. Stay tuned for a second college triathlon Q and A!
I am on the University of Arizona TriCats and I joined the team my second semester freshman year.
Were you doing triathlon before college or did you start once you got to college?
Before college I was a synchronized swimmer, and then when I moved to Tucson my roommates inspired me to sign up for an Ironman!
Members pay dues every year to be on the team! We have a couple of local sponsors and work with our university cycling team to order kits and other gear. Since we are a club sport we do not have the opportunity to offer scholarships, but the university offers some financial support. We also volunteer at different races in Arizona in order to raise money for the team. The team is entirely student-run and we pay our coaches for their time.
We keep all of our races within driving distance since members pay for their own transportation costs (gas, mostly. Shipping bikes would be a hassle!). We do two conference races in the fall, our conference championship in the spring along with Tritonman which is a draft legal/sprint race, and then Nationals to close out the semester. We limit the number of people we take to nationals especially when we have to fly there, but when it was in Tempe two years ago, we got to take everyone who wanted to come since it was only a 2-hour car drive away! We try and stay the night of any race for a fun team bonding event. For example, every year at our conference championship in Lake Havasu, we stay the night and camp out on the lake, normally with the ASU team as well. I have only had the opportunity to go to nationals once, as last year and this year it was cancelled, but it was a blast when I got to go! The comradery between teams was fun to see, and despite it being a terribly hot day, the excitement stayed high throughout the whole weekend. The best part in my opinion was racing the MTR. I wish they would do more of those in other races, but it’s a treat when you get to do it at nationals!
What would you say to parents with daughters wanting to race in college?
To the parents with daughters wanting to race in college, I would say this is the best team I have been a part of…and it’s a whole lot cheaper than a sorority! I can feel that I have made lifelong friends through this team and it is about so much more than triathlon. Your daughter will have a sense of belonging in a team that promotes healthy habits, friendly competition, and a way to learn the importance of time management in college.
To the girls who want to race in college, I would tell them that it will make your college years so much better. You will get to practice and socialize with some of the best people on campus, you will get to talk out your problems with people who have been in your shoes, and you will look forward to all the early mornings and long bike rides just a little bit more than before you joined whatever team you end up on. That team will want nothing more than to see you achieve your goals, whatever they may be.
My best experience on this team was racing the MTR at the 2019 collegiate nationals. My Olympic race in the morning had not gone exactly as I had hoped it would and I was being mopey after. Our president at the time came up to me and pulled me aside before the MTR and said “you have a whole team counting on you. Make sure you can do this.” It took me pretty much until my anchor leg of the race to snap out of it and get my head straight. When I dove into the lake, I thought about nothing else but my team that was cheering me on, and for those short 20 minutes I raced as hard as I could and closed out the weekend on a high note. This moment reminded me that I was not on TriCats for just myself, but to better this team and to keep it going for all of the triathletes that will go to the U of A after I graduate.
What I will miss most about the team atmosphere is having people to get me out of bed and enjoy my workouts with me every morning. It will be hard to not have them pushing me to be my best every time we get on the bike, or in the pool, or on the road for a run. But I know I will think about them every time I do put my helmet on.
The future of collegiate triathlon lies in the hands of the future students. It is up to the current collegiate triathletes to reach out and convince those who are thinking about racing in college, and even those who haven’t even heard of the sport yet, that this is an incredible experience that will only advance your college years. From personal experience, it can be hard to recruit people, so it is important to get the word out early that there are options for these athletes. Club sports do not have the demand of varsity ones, and you can keep school as a priority. But there are also schools with triathlon as a varsity sport – with funding and scholarships – if you want to be more serious. There is a place for everyone in collegiate triathlon.