When Barbara Perkins came to DU in July 2020 as the first women’s triathlon head coach, she had one month to put together a competitive team—during COVID, no less. Never could she have imagined that two years later her fledgling team would take third place at the national championships and, to top off the stellar season, she would be named NCAA Division I Coach of the Year.
“It was a huge honor. It’s a testament to the team and how far we’ve come in such a short period of time and how hard they’ve worked,” she says. “They believed that we were capable of getting up on the podium this year, so the whole season, they kept talking about it, and they wanted to do it as a team. I think that helped us stay motivated and focused.”
The team’s third-place finish on Nov. 12 at the 2022 Collegiate National Championships in Tempe, Arizona, was not only the highlight of the season but also the highest result by a women’s individual program at a national championship event in school history.
Perkins led the Pioneers to five other podium finishes during the regular season. Denver finished first or second in all their races prior to nationals, including team wins at the Southern Hills Triathlon on Sept. 3 in Hot Springs, South Dakota, and at Bearathlon on Oct. 30 in Berkeley, California.
She also stepped up to organize the inaugural Mile High Relays, held on the DU campus, in late September with just a few weeks’ notice when a scheduled event in Utah was canceled.
The ability to adapt served Perkins and the team well. “We started from the bottom, ground zero,” she says. After two years of hard work and building a rock-solid culture of teamwork and support, she adds, a national championship feels within their grasp.
“That is the ultimate goal,” Perkins says. “I want to do it the right way. I want the team to be super close and motivated like we have been, continuing to bring in the right people and keep that strong team dynamic so we can do it together.”