Published DateLACONIA — When Sami Hicks entered eighth grade at Laconia Middle School, her mother, Tracy Durgin, once a distance runner at Pelham High School, encouraged her to run cross country and she has run ever since, to winner's circles, school records and yesterday to college.
Before a crowd of family, friends, coaches and teammates Hicks signed a letter of intent to accept a scholarship at Stetson University in DeLand, Florida, where she will study elementary education and run cross country.
Andy Mercer, the cross country coach at Laconia High School, said that "Sami has been among the top cross country runners in New Hampshire since she was a freshman. She is the reigning Division III champion, a title she claimed by covering the five-kilometer course at Derryfield Park in Manchester in 19 minutes 38 seconds and holder of the school record at five kilometers at 18 minutes 17 seconds.
"She's versatile," said Chris Beyer, the track and field coach, noting that Hicks has qualified to compete in seven events in the state championships — the 200 meters, 300 meter hurdles, 400 meters, 800 meters, 1,600 meters, 3,200 meters and high jump.
Byer recalled a mile Hicks, then a sophomore, ran against a friend from Milford, who she expected to breakaway midway through the race to compensate for her lack of finishing speed. "Let her go," Byers told Hicks. When the girl opened a lead of 60 meters halfway through the third lap, a rival coach asked him if his runner was going to make a move. "I think so," Byers replied. Still some 60 or 70 meters behind with less than 100 meters to go, he put the same question again. "I hope so," Byers answered. With that Hicks turned on the jets to win by five one-hundredths of a second.
Anna Solomon, her coach in middle school, counted running a race in Concord with — and well behind — Hicks, who greeted her with open arms at the finish line, among her greatest thrills. She said that from the beginning Hicks "challenged and disciplined herself" and "excelled not only on the track but also in the classroom."
Mercer spoke of Hicks's talent, but stressed her work ethic. "People have seen the Sami show," he said, "but few have seen the rehearsals, Sami worked harder than any athlete I've ever known."
Hicks said that she runs five or six miles six days a week, often with Edis Dizdarevic, who runs on the boys teams. "We just run," she remarked. "We never plan a route. We just run." She said that at Stetson she will confine her running to cross country. "I get nervous running on the track where everyone can see you all the time," she explained. "I like to run off into the woods."
Scott Durgin, her stepfather, said that Hicks "acts like running is a chore, but she really, really enjoys it. She likes just running against herself."
"He's right," Hicks admitted. "When I'm running, I just love it."
CAPTION: Sami Hicks, flanked by her mother and father, Tracy and Scott Durgin, a championship runner and excellent student will take her athletic prowess and academic talent to Stetson University in Florida where her achievements on the cross country course and in the classroom earned her a scholarship. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/ Michael Kitch)
CAPTION: Sami Hicks, holder of the Laconia High School record at five kilometers, stands alongside her coach Andy Mercer with the banner marking her championship season. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch)