Hicks races to JO National Championship

Laconia sophomore Samantha Hicks makes her way toward the finish line during the N.H. Cross Country Meet of Champions. (Whaley/Democrat Photo)

LACONIA — It was a big weekend for Sam Hicks, a Laconia High School sophomore track and cross country standout.

Hicks, competing for the Gate City Striders (a running club out of Nashua), captured first place in the Intermediate Girls Division race at the 2010 USATF National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships at Veterans Park in Hoover, Ala. The Gate City Striders qualified for the Nationals.

It was some thing she decided that she wanted to do, Laconia track coach Chris Beyer said.

More than 2,000 young runners participated in the championship events. The athletes enjoyed a clear day of crisp Alabama weather. The USATF Junior Olympic program age divisions are bantam (10 and under) racing over 3 kilometers; midget (11-12) racing 3 km; youth (13-14) racing 4 km; intermediate (15-16) racing 5 km; and young men/women (17-18) racing 5 km.

Hicks clocked the fastest girls' time of the day in 18 minutes, 40 seconds for 5 km. The sophomore sensation was pushed to the end in what may have been the best race of the afternoon. Summer Harper (Sojourn) was on her heels, finishing just five seconds behind her (18:45). Harper edged Hannah Oneda (Howard) who finished in 18:46.

With the impressive victory — a Junior Olympics National Champion, Hicks has been named a Junior Olympic Cross Country All-American.

Lauren Turner (Team Bliss) won the Bantam title in a time of 11:37 for 3 km. Claire Graves (So Cal) broke the tape for the Midget Girls, also 3 km, in 11:03. Christine Bayliss (Oak Hill Racing) covered the 4 km Youth Division course in a time of 14:16.

Krista Menghini eclipsed her nearest competitor by one second to become the Young Women's champion (5 km) with a time of 19:02.