Hampton University has hit a major milestone in the realm of sports. The Virginia-based institution has made history by becoming the first historically Black college and university to add a women’s varsity triathlon team to their list of sports programs, HBCU Gameday reported.
The program—which is slated to kick off in Fall 2019—will be the institution’s 19th varsity sport, the news outlet writes. The school was able to create the team through the help of a $225,000 grant that was issued by the USA Triathlon Foundation. The funds will go toward hiring a coach to lead the team, player scholarships, travel and other expenses. “Hampton University’s addition of a varsity women’s triathlon program is cause for celebration for many reasons,” Rocky Harris, CEO, USA Triathlon, said in a statement, according to the news outlet. “USA Triathlon is in the process of working with HBCUs on a variety of upcoming initiatives to increase diversity in triathlon at the youth and collegiate level, and this is an important step in that journey. The academic and athletic administration at Hampton have proven to be leaders by committing to this unique opportunity for female student-athletes, who will shape the future of our sport for years to come.”
Leaders at Hampton believe that the addition of the team will be instrumental in creating pathways for Black women athletes to pursue careers in sports and will contribute to diversifying a sport where they are underrepresented. “Once again, just like in sailing and lacrosse, we are pioneering something in sports and specifically for women. This is not the first time that Hampton has led, and others will follow,” Hampton University president William R. Harvey told the Washington Post.
Diversity in the sport is needed. According to a report released by Triathlon Business International, Black people make up 0.5% of triathlon athletes.