DECATUR — Millikin announced on Thursday it will be adding women’s triathlon to its athletics lineup.

With the assistance of USA Triathlon, Millikin will become the 18th school in the nation to add a varsity women’s triathlon program. Millikin plans to have its team ready to begin competition in the fall of 2018.

The addition of the women’s triathlon program is being made possible through a $70,000 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 NCAA varsity level.

The NCAA named triathlon an Emerging Sport for Women in 2014. The designation gives programs a 10-year window to demonstrate sustainability as an NCAA sport. The varsity season, which is composed of three regional qualifiers and the Women’s Collegiate Triathlon National Championship, features sprint-distance races covering a 750-meter open water swim, draft-legal 20-kilometer bike, and 5-kilometer run.

“Triathlon fits Decatur and central Illinois extremely well, and the athleticism and dedication required to compete in this challenging sport will be a great fit with our athletic department," said Craig White, Millikin's director of athletics.

When Millikin began exploring the addition of another women’s sport, triathlon seemed a natural fit. Decatur has successfully hosted triathlon events since 2007 with the start of the Rodney T. Miller Lakeside Triathlon. The event was named after Millikin 1988 alumnus and six-time NCAA Champion swimmer Rodney Miller, an Illinois State Police Officer who died in the line of duty in 2006. In 2017 the race was renamed the Lakeside Triathlon.

“Millikin is happy to be a pioneer in adding women’s triathlon to our intercollegiate athletics offerings,” said Patrick White, Millikin's president. “Triathlon has long generated interest and participation in Decatur and the region. Now Millikin women will be able to compete across the country in this challenging life sport and further spread the reputation of Millikin University to new fans.”

This fall, Millikin will begin the process of hiring a triathlon coach. Once a coach is on board, Millikin will formalize partnerships in the community necessary to begin a varsity women’s triathlon program. Millikin will immediately begin recruiting student-athletes and acquire the needed equipment for the program. Millikin plans to compete in at least four events in 2018.

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