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by: Patrick Bendzick
XC Feature: Top of the Class
Courtesy: Ralph Epifanio  
Release:  08/21/2013
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The roster for the 2013 Stetson Women’s Cross Country team leaves little room for doubt that this is the best squad in school history. With senior Sabrina Guzsvany (a 19:50 5K PR), and sophomores Adrienne DeVita (19:15 best) and Trixi Menge (19:36) already having proven themselves on the college level—as a freshman Menge finished first on the team in all but one race in 2012--it is no wonder that Coach Joe Matuszczak starts the season in the best of spirits. But wait. There’s more to come…literally. Among the incoming freshmen are Clarissa Consol (with a 19:55 while competing for Crystal River High School in Fl.), Valerie Hiller (19:39 at Jonathan Law High School in Milford, Ct.), and Amanda Spring (18:44 at Northeast High School in St. Petersburg, Fl.). Amanda joins the program with a high school time that is six seconds under 2010 graduate Coleen Mulholland’s SU school record.

To that sensational six we now add Laconia, New Hampshire’s Samantha “Sami” Hicks. At 5’9” and 120 pounds, she looks most like a high jumper, which was one of her many high school events, that included—but were not limited to--the 200 (27.6), 400 (60.0), 600 (1:43.90), 800 (2:19.32), 1000 (3:01.91), 1500 (4:54.50), 1600 (5:00), mile (5:17.02), 3000 (11:00.30), 3200 (11:26.45), and long jump (14’1”), all of which help to explain why she would try to throw the javelin…once. Sami, in fact, qualified for seven events at the 2013 NH State Meet.

“And I high jump,” she added. “I finished second in the 2013 New Hampshire Meet of Champions (5’3”).”

Sami was also second at the 2013 (5’0”), and the 2012 (5’2”) NHIAA State Meets.

Anything else?

“All through high school I played basketball. I was F-S-S point guard, but in my senior year I played center."

It was, however, that 18:17 in the 5K that will catch a harrier fan’s eye.

“The Nashua (NH) course is pretty fast,” she said modestly.

So I asked her: “Why Florida?”

“I hate being cold; I don’t like the winter,” Sami verified. “I wanted to go to school in Florida, and I was the one who contacted the coach (Matuszczak). They (Stetson) were the ones who offered me the best scholarship.

“I am majoring in Early Childhood Education, and would like to find a job teaching, although I am not sure where yet. I don’t know if I would like to come back to New Hampshire.”

Training in and around Laconia, on the very edge of the White Mountains “The Sami Show” has made a successful “run” for five years now.

According to his article entitled Sign of the Times—appearing in the Laconia Citizen on May 17 of this year--Patrick McHugh says this of her signing a national letter of intent to attend Stetson:

Surrounded inside the Laconia High School cafeteria by family, friends, coaches, teachers and administrators, the Sachem senior signed her National Letter of Intent Thursday to attend and run cross country at Stetson University in DeLand, Fla.

The declaration drew cheers from onlookers who praised the 18-year-old for her accomplishment.

“Sami, you represent the model of what we hope Laconia students become,” said LHS Principal Jim McCollum. “We are all so proud of you.”

Sami is the holder, both as an individual and relay team member, of numerous records at Laconia High School, including the 400, 800, 1000, 1600, and 5000 meter runs, and is a four time state champion between track (the 1600 in 2011, and the 1000 in 2011 and 2012) and cross country (2012), the end of a process that began in middle school.

“I started in 8th grade, in Laconia Middle School. We didn’t really have a lot of kids in our school. (On the cross country team) there were probably like three or four girls, and maybe four or five guys. We ran at two miles all season. I don’t remember my times; it was a long time ago.

“In high school I ran cross country and track. We were Division 2 when I ran the 18:17. We were Division 3 this year.”

Those athletic divisions are much smaller than Floridians might be accustomed to. New Hampshire, with 1.3 million people, is a fraction the size of Florida. The majority of New Hampshire’s people live in the downstate cities of Manchester, Portsmouth, Nashua, and Concord. Laconia, in north-central NH, is a city of approximately 16,000 people (a little over half that of DeLand), and her former high school has 611 students, ¼ that of Stetson. One of Laconia’s most notable alumni, however, is one Steve Stetson, an all-Ivy league quarterback at Dartmouth College, which went 24-2-1—winning three Ivy League Championships--in his three years on varsity (1970-72). Although he went on to coach on the college level, it was, unfortunately, while Stetson—the college—took a break from the sport. Rumors that he had been considered for their new non-scholarship program, premiering August 31st, are interesting, but probably unfounded.

Back to that 18:17.

“It was my sophomore year. That’s when I ran my best times.”

Times that included an 18:40, with which she won the USATF National Junior Olympics Cross Country Championship, Intermediate Division, on December 11, 2010.
“But my junior year I hurt my hip, and was out for half the season. I didn’t run all summer, and going into that fall I went into high mileage—we were doing like ten or 11 miles, with hills…uphill all the way. The last mile I had to walk the whole way, it hurt so much. I was out half the season. My first race back was the Manchester Invitational (which she won in 19:22).”

One question that had to be asked—because Stetson has cross country, but does not have track—would she miss the latter?

“I enjoy cross country a lot more than track,” she volunteered, “because I don’t like running around and around a track. I like running in the woods.”

Although Stetson has neither a track, nor woods, it does have warm winters, flat running routes, and meets in places that feature some of the fastest XC courses in America. All of which will—hopefully—end up in Sami’s second successful trip to Alabama, site of this year’s NCAA Division 1 Southeast Regional Cross Country Championship.

Stetson Cross Country