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Collegiate Nationals Athletes Use Creativity to Fund Travel

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Collegiate athletes are making their way to Tuscaloosa, Ala., this week for what promises to be a weekend filled with excitement, competition and camaraderie at the 2012 USA Triathlon Collegiate National Championship. Clubs hail from states as far away as Oregon and California and travel hundreds of miles to participate in the event. In order to travel to the event as a team, clubs find unique ways to fund their trips.

“Fundraising is an integral part of our team, and we wouldn't be able to offer many of the benefits we do, let alone send a team to Nationals without it,” said Kristina Egbert, a co-president for the UC Santa Barbara Triathlon Team.

Collegiate triathlon clubs have found ways to turn their passion for multisport into ways to help them cover the costs for what many consider the biggest race of the year. Many clubs host triathlons or other races for the community, often times employing a theme for the events, like the University of Michigan.

“Here at Michigan, we host a 5k/10k race in the fall and a sprint triathlon in early April,” said UM Triathlon Team president Nick Vasdekas. “This year we went with an apocalypse theme to our races. Basically, the world is ending, so everyone has to cross ‘do a triathlon’ off of their list, right?” Vasdekas says the funds earned at these races help the team pay for their hotel and transportation costs.

In addition to hosting events, club members are active in the multisport community, lending a hand at larger races.

“Our club earns money from volunteering for the Columbus Marathon every fall,” said Jess Tufts, who serves as the treasurer for the Ohio State Triathlon Club. “This year we had a portion of our team drive to New York to volunteer for the New York City Marathon, where we also raised money for our trip. We also have a local running shop called Frontrunner that puts on a 5k run in early March. Our members staff the store's packet pick-up hours for a weekend and earn money for the club for doing so.”

Even when collegiate clubs are hosting events, they find ways to give back to the local community, as is the case with the Syracuse University Triathlon Club and an event they call the “Nearly Naked Mile.” “It’s a clothing drive where we accept donations and a recommended $5 entry fee to run a mile race,” said team member Will Leonard. “Clothing is donated at the starting line, and the monetary proceeds go to the club for Nationals.”

Even though most clubs have an annual fundraiser for Collegiate Nationals, athletes sometimes have to think fast on their feet when other factors are at work, just like during a race. The UC Santa Barbara Triathlon Team faced a weather-related challenge on the day of their largest fundraiser, a triathlon held in memory of a 2006 team member who was killed during a training ride, and had to cancel the race due to bad weather.

The team’s budget took a hit, but the fundraising and alumni chair was able to create the team’s annual fund as a result. “We worked really hard to update our alumni list, and we contacted both team alumni and current team parents to ask for donations,” Egbert said, adding that team dinners and other smaller fundraisers help the team to grow their travel budget.

Local businesses are also willing to help collegiate athletes meet their fundraising goals. For example, the Mizzou Triathlon Team has found local businesses willing to sponsor the team, and they display those organizations with logos on their tri tops. The University of Colorado recently got a boost from 2008 Olympian Matt Reed and the Boom Yogurt Bar, who donated 15 percent of April 13 proceeds to the team.

From indoor triathlons to scholarship funds, collegiate athletes are getting creative and discovering fun and interesting new ways to raise the money they need to represent their team at Collegiate Nationals.

For more from the 2012 USA Triathlon Collegiate National Championship, visit the event coverage page.

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