Montana State University Billings is the first school in Montana and just the 24th in the nation to add women’s triathlon to its athletics department. It is the 16th varsity sport for the Division II school.
The Yellowjackets will likely begin their inaugural season fall 2019 with a pretty small roster, but Coach Kevin Bjerke is optimistic.
“It’s been a little bit tough to really reach into some of those seniors,” said Bjerke. “But there is got a really good base of 2020 graduates that I’m talking to. I really got some really good interest out there, so I’m really happy with that and excited about, especially next year. “
Bjerke has only been recruiting athletes for this new sport for a couple of months—he was just hired in December-- so he’s pretty late on the recruiting circuit.
And he doesn’t have a ready pool of high school triathletes to pull from.
“There really is not a high school triathlon scene, especially in this area, so you are trying to find a really strong swimmer that’s interested in combining that with biking and running,” Bjerke said.
Triathlon is an endurance sport. These women will swim 750 meters in open water, bike 20 kilometers and then run five kilometers. Bjerke said takes a special kind of athlete who enjoys driving, pushing and competing.
“So really it’s a mentality that you’re recruiting,” Bjerke said. “And obviously someone that has pretty good experience and accomplishments in swimming and running in particular.”
The Yellowjackets first-ever meet will be on August 31, 2019, with the Southern Hills Triathlon in Hot Springs, South Dakota.