Triathlon at the High School Level
By Mark Mason
The Southwest High School Triathlon Conference has just finished its very first season with more than 16 high school triathlon teams from California competing. I think this is definitely the first successful step in making triathlon a high school sport.
Back in December 2011, I decided I wanted to launch the SWHSTC (Southwest High School Triathlon Conference) in California. I contacted every triathlon club and high school in the state of California looking for teams, and helped high school athletes put together new teams at their high schools to compete in this league. Then we split up the state into two divisions — one for Southern California and one for Northern California. We then added Division III for Arizona and division IV went to Nevada.
After we created the high school teams, we contacted all of the colleges and universities in the state as well as the WCCTC (West Coast Collegiate Triathlon Conference) in order to add a high school division and registration discounts for the high school teams to compete at all of the college triathlon races. We basically mirrored the college triathlon season and piggybacked all of their races. The colleges welcomed us with open arms and it was a win-win situation. The kids loved touring the colleges and racing and the colleges now have a place to recruit future triathletes to their schools.
We had 16 high schools competing in this first year of the conference league. Some teams only had a couple kids while other teams had 10 kids. We have already started signing up new high school teams for next year’s season and we are expecting to have close to 50 high school triathlon teams next year competing in this league. I'd really love to see triathlon become as normal in high school as track and football. It was amazing to coach and watch these high school kids with no prior triathlon experience learn how to overcome their fears and learn to swim, bike, run and compete.
The winning teams this year were Point Arena High School in Division I and LaCanada High School in Division II, as well as the all-conference trophy. Some of the other high school triathlon teams that did very well this first season were Holy Family High School in Glendale, Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Bright Star Second Charter Academy in Los Angeles, Santa Monica High School in Santa Monica, Cal Poly High School in Long Beach, San Marcos High School in Santa Barbara and Linden High School in Linden, to name just a few. All the kids from all the schools did an incredible job swimming, biking and running, and we also had a lot of help from our great sponsors.
To learn more about this high school triathlon league or to sign your school up for next year, please go to www.highschooltri.com.