Isabella Abbott | Features Editor
Duquesne University has recently announced the arrival of three new women’s sports on campus. Members of the newly formed triathlon, golf and acro and tumbling teams said they’re thrilled to begin their seasons as Duquesne athletes and coaches.
Duquesne alumna Joella Baker was named triathlon head coach on July 26, 2022. She swam and ran track and cross country years ago and is happy to be back on the Bluff to coach. She said being at Duquesne was “the best years of her life.”
Her team has competed in its first two races, including its first home race at Brady’s Run Park on Sept. 9 and its first race in program history in North Carolina Sept. 3.
The team’s first-ever race consisted of a 200-meter swim, a 10-mile bike ride followed by a rolling two-mile run, while their home race consisted of a 750-meter swim and 20k, or 12.4-mile, bike and a 5k run.
The team received runner-up in North Carolina, where they competed against four teams, and fourth place in Beaver Falls, which featured 76 athletes with 13 teams.
Athlete Alaina Hicks was one of five Dukes to place in the top 10 for their Sept. 3 race.
Hicks is one of two sophomores on the roster and ran cross country before switching this year to triathlon. She said she decided to join the team after her former coach, Baker, reached out to her.
“She’s actually been my coach for about 10 years I already worked very well with her, and we knew each other for many years before that,” Hicks said.
Like many of her teammates, Hicks started competing in triathlons at a young age and would race about five times a year. Her favorite part about her Duquesne team so far is her teammates.
And like Hicks, Baker is ready for more races.
“Seeing how the girls respond to each other and work together and persevere and overcome any obstacles that they’ll have during a race is exciting to me,” Baker said. “I think we have a great group of young ladies who are going to surprise a lot of people.”
As an advocate for triathlon herself, Baker has seen the Pittsburgh community already show their support for her team.
“It’s a growing sport in Western Pennsylvania… and I know the triathlon community is extremely excited about us having a team,” Baker said. “A lot of people I know from the community have already purchased our gear, and I think that goes a long way for the city to show that they’re backing this new team and want to see us be successful.”
Having raced more than 250 triathlons in her life, Baker knows her athletes will appreciate the sport like she does while at Duquesne.
“It’s something that these girls can do for the rest of their life,” Baker said. “It’s just a sport that you can do for a really long time.”
The triathlon team will have their next meet Saturday, Sept. 24, at the Giant Acorn Triathlon Festival at Lake Anna in Virginia.
Although the women’s triathlon team started their season this fall, the other two teams will begin competing in the inaugural 2024 season. Both are preparing for their start.
Acro and tumbling coach Michaela Soper was named head coach on May 11. She first started on her coaching path after a career-ending injury during her senior year of high school. She is ready to recruit more girls to compete.
“I think that Duquesne is just a fantastic institution academically, and so adding a sport like this is just going to add depth to the overall student-athlete experience here,” Soper said. “There’s such a great recruiting pool right around us, there is nothing but success ahead, and I’m excited for what’s to come.”
Soper is excited to have this opportunity at Duquesne not just for the competition and new sport, but because the sport is “created for women by women.”
“I think it’s just one of those things where if you can see someone in that role, it allows them to have that opportunity at the end of the day to say, ‘Hey, I can do that because I’ve seen these women go off and be successful in their career,’” Soper said. “The opportunities are truly endless, and there’s a lot of things that come from the sport in the first place.”
The other sport making its debut in 2024 is golf. Colleen Meyers was named head coach on Aug. 14, and unlike the other coaches, she got into the sport later in life.
Though she didn’t start playing until after college, her twin daughter and son played golf at Notre Dame, and one still plays at Penn State. She said she’d make sure they were always proud of how they competed.
“Whenever they were in a tournament, and they completed it, even if they didn’t play their best, I would say, ‘What are the three things that you’re proud of today?’ and would try to make sure they focused on the good things that happened,” Meyers said. “I kind of found my calling to be a coach through that.”
When their season starts, Meyers’ goal is to have positivity and a good team culture.
“I want to build a team that immediately makes a mark in our conference, I know we can do that it’s just all about hard work, it’s all about believing in each other, it’s all about the offseason preparations that you make,” Meyers said.
“And I feel like we can absolutely build a very strong team, and I’m looking forward to the future.”