Hickom has signed a scholarship to do her running with Georgia Southwestern State University, a Division II college in Americus.
David Matherne, her cross country coach at Cartersville, said Hickom used hard work to improve from 26:01, her best time as a freshman, into the 22-minute range her senior year.
“She is the most dedicated athlete I’ve coached in a long time,” Matherne said. “She is at every single practice — rain, shine, sick — you name it. She is as reliable as the sunshine coming up and works hard and has goals that are very clear in her mind.”
He said Hickom’s times improved more and more as she practiced.
“I’ve seen her progress throughout her four years of running cross country to be somebody I could obviously count on but also somebody that was going to lift the team up around her because she’s such a good example for the young girls to follow.”
Hickom, who will be studying to become a nurse at Georgia Southwestern, said she began to enjoy the sport more and more during her varsity years.
She said it wasn’t her first sport but, rather, something she turned to.
“I was a gymnast and I got hurt, so I needed a new sport and started running,” she recalled.
She added running also is something of a family tradition.
“Both my brothers were runners so after gymnastics I took after them,” she said, adding Troy Hickom runs at Clayton State and Tyler Hickom ran at West Georgia after they ran for the Purple Hurricanes. Her father Scott was a Cartersville runner in the 1970s.
She has enjoyed success at Cartersville, particularly her junior and senior years.
“I’ve raced in two state championships and I’ve been to the Footlocker Regional Championship held in North Carolina twice,” she said.
Hickom said she turned in her best time as a senior.
“I started running in the 30s and I dropped down to 22 minutes my senior year,” she said. “I improved with a lot of training. I wasn’t dedicated at first. I didn’t really have a love for running when I started. Once I started really training and finding out I liked it, I just sped up.”
She said she didn’t have clear goals when she started running but found possibilities opened up for her through the years.
“I didn’t know I would get a scholarship but figured when I stopped gymnastics I needed something else,” she said.
Hickom attributes her scholarship to the work she put in the sport. “I worked hard for it,” she added.
Matherne said he enjoyed watching Hickom become more and more successful through the years.
“When she was younger, I think she might even admit she had room to improve. It didn’t mean she wasn’t working hard but her times were not as much of a focus as in the last two years,” he recalled.
The coach said Hickom reached a turning point between her sophomore and junior years.
“She said I am going to do this next year, coach, and I knew I could count on that happening,” Matherne said. “That was a lot of fun watching her develop into one of the best athletes we’ve had here and to sign a scholarship.”
He believes her work ethic could help her reach milestones in her collegiate career.
“She’s strong. She’s multi-talented. She’s determined and didn’t miss a single minute of practice,” Matherne said. “She didn’t miss a single summer practice in four years. That’s something like 80 and they’re all voluntary.”
He said she is multi-talented.
“She’s smart and works hard in the classroom,” he said. “She converted herself into a pole vaulter in track and a hurdler. She’s on the 4x1 team, the sprint relay. Here’s a girl who can run a 5K in an afternoon run and can also be on your sprint team.”
Matherne said her times improved dramatically in four years.
Her best time as a freshman was 26:01, the coach said. Her junior year, her best time dropped to 23:04.
In her senior year her best time was 22:49, placing her as the 25th fastest runner in the school’s history.
That time was turned in at the “Footlocker South” event held Nov. 30, 2013, in Charlotte, N.C.
Matherne said her best times lie ahead for the runner.
“It’s hard to take a high school kid to the college level as a freshman, but if the coach can train her toward her strengths and she can stay healthy, then she’ll be one of the best they’ve ever seen at Georgia Southwestern.”