How To Qualify For 2023 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships
Updated: Nov 15
For many new to the sport triathletes, the words "National Championships" may be intimidating. Many athletes I've coached don't realize that they would even have a chance to qualify, so they don't consider racing. In reality, for the majority of athletes it's not hard to qualify, as long as you do a bit of training and apply a little strategy to your race selection, as I detail below. 2023 National Championships will be held in Milwaukee, WI in August again. I participated for the first time in 2021 and had a great experience. Read my race review here. This event was professionally run, properly measured, competitive and fair. It's a great goal to compete with your age group in one of the biggest Sprint/Olympic distance races of the year. How high can you place at Nationals?
How to qualify:
There are various ways to qualify for Nationals as I elaborate on here, but the one to focus on is this: athletes must place in the top 2 or top 15% of their age group (whichever is greater) in a USAT sanctioned age group triathlon of any distance. The first point to make, is that most triathlons you come across are already USAT sanctioned. We've put together a list of NorCal triathlons and only one on there (that I know of) is unsanctioned. So the real key to getting into Nationals (which have both Olympic and Sprint distances) is to find a race that isn't very competitive and/or doesn't have many athletes in your age group. The best way to figure this out is to go through old race results and look at how many athletes were in your age group. Looking for races that are 1) new, 2) in regional areas, and 3) don't have big marketing budgets or belong to a big series tend to be your best bet. Another trick is finding events that host both an Olympic and a Sprint, or Super-Sprint event on the same day or weekend. Enter the shorter distance as the better athletes tend to go longer and this will dilute the competition for the shorter event. Then, as the next selection priority you can look at the profile of the race and make sure it suits you (ie. if you're a strong cyclist, choose a tough, hilly bike course.)
There are some other ways people qualify, such being a previous participant in Nationals or Worlds events. Another way (which is new) is to finish in the top 35% or top 5% of your age group in State Championships. As State Championships are relatively new, this should be another good strategy to netting a qualification. A list of State Championships can be found here.
The qualification period for 2023 Age Group Nationals extends to events back to June 1, 2022 and the qualification period will end on July 30, 2023. You can check official results for the triathlons you've completed here by typing in your name. You should get an email about 15 days after your race if you qualify. They are having some difficulties inputting new members into the system lately, so if you don't show up in their database and think you should, you may have already qualified and you'll need to send an email to follow up. Another source of confusion is that some events recognize overall winners and pull them out of the age group awards. USAT doesn't recognize overall awards, so the event might award you 1st in your age group when in fact two athletes in your category finished Top 3 overall and hence bumped you out of qualification.
If you have further questions on qualifying strategy or details your can't find on the USAT website, ask in the comments or send me a note!