ADAMS TWP — One cannot say Alaina Hicks was born to run.
She waited a few years first — but only a few.
“I attended St. Kilian and they have a grade school cross country program,” the Adams Township resident and North Catholic freshman said. “I started running cross country in third grade.”
She hasn’t stopped running since.
Hicks joined Joella Baker’s Get Fit Families triathlon program in fourth grade. Now she’s excelling in both sports — and has no off-season.
“Once the triathlon season ends in August, we begin cross country practice for high school,” Hicks said. “Once cross country ends in November, we do indoor triathlon training at the YMCA. The first week of March is the first youth triathlon of the season.”
Derek Hicks, Alaina’s father, is a former marathon runner. He’s done the New York City and Pittsburgh marathons.
His interest in running clearly rubbed off on his daughter.
While at St. Kilian, Alaina went on to win the Diocesan championship in cross country in the fall of her eighth-grade year, then won the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meter individual Diocesan titles in the spring.
As a freshman at North Catholic, Hicks placed fourth in the WPIAL Class 1A Cross Country Championships at California (Pa.) University. She claimed 18th at the PIAA Championships and earned a medal there.
“She enjoys cross country, but that’s not Alaina’s favorite sport,” her father said. “She’s really taken to the triathlon and has lofty goals there.”
Favorite sport or not, Alaina had some lofty finishes in major cross country meets this fall. She was top finisher among 1A girls at the 16th annual Red, White & Blue Classic in early September.
She took second in the Gateway Invitational in September and at the TSTCA Championships in October. Her personal record of 19 minutes, 24 seconds came in a third-place finish at the Sharpsville Blue Devil Invitational in Sharon.
“Alaina is a very dedicated and committed runner and athlete,” North Catholic cross country coach Stacy Kopchak said. “And she’s a great teammate. She’s always helping her teammates and pushes them as well.
“Because she’s been running cross country since grade school, Alaina understands the team comcept. She didn’t want to go to states by herself. She wanted to go with her team.”
The Trojanettes took second place in the WPIAL 1A Championships for the third successive year. The team is filled with underclassmen.
“Our goal is to win the WPIAL championship as a team,” Alaina said. “Just being a part of something like that would be tremendous.”
In the USA Triathlon series over the summer, Hicks placed seventh at the USAT Junior National Championships, youth-elite female division, in the 13-15 age category. She will compete next summer in the 13-15 category and is ranked eighth in the nation in the 2018 Youth Elite Series.
“My goal is to get up on the podium next summer at nationals, which would be a top-three finish,” Hicks said.
“Last year, I was most proud of my fourth-place finish in the Draft Legal series (triathlon) in Richmond, Va. The competition at those events is very strong.”
Hicks added that she likes “the mixture” of running, biking and swimming that comprise a triathlon.
“But I appreciate cross country in the fall and I’m looking forward to track in the spring,” she said. “It’s all part of staying in shape and competing.”