JWCC Prairie State Profile: Quincy’s Meyers ready to become area’s first NCAA Division I triathlete
QUINCY — Joella Baker wasted no time leaving a lasting impression.
Not long after the veteran triathlete was named the head coach of Duquesne University’s fledgling women’s triathlon program, she received an email from Quincy High School senior Alexandria Meyers expressing interest in competing for the Dukes.
“When I heard who the coach was at Duquesne, I thought this might be a good opportunity,” Meyers said. “I thought, ‘I’ll send an email and see how it goes.’”
It went better than expected.
“It was a good feeling when she answered,” Meyers said. “Honestly, she answered in five hours, which was really quick compared to some other coaches.”
The fact there was some familiarity helped. Baker is a certified USA Triathlon Level II and Youth coach, which has allowed her to see Meyers compete in national events.
“She’s seen me race all the way up through the series,” Meyers said. “We’ve heard a lot of good things about her.”
So it made it easy to give Baker and Duquesne a verbal commitment to become Quincy’s first NCAA Division I triathlete. Meyers will sign a national letter of intent with the Dukes at a future date, but her college prospects are decided.
Her historic place as a possible trendsetter is secure, too.
“At the level I have the opportunity to compete at, that’s unbelievable,” Meyers said. “I found out about this school really late compared to a lot of others. I was not expecting to go to a D-I school. I’m going to have the opportunity to race against the best.”
She will be part of a burgeoning sport.
The NCAA approved triathlon as an emerging sport for women in 2014 with USA Triathlon targeting 2024 as the year there would be enough schools — it takes 40 — fielding varsity programs to make it an official NCAA sport with a postseason national championship.
When Cal Poly announced the formation of its triathlon program last February, the 40-mark had been reached. Duquesne didn’t announce adding triathlon until last April.
“I reached out to them because I found out they were the newest program at the time to add triathlon,” Meyers said.
It became her first choice even if it didn’t start that way.
Meyers, who runs cross country and track for the Blue Devils and competes on the USA Triathlon circuit, heard from five schools last year after competing at nationals. These were initial inquiries with coaches looking to connect and talk.
“That started me researching the schools and sending emails to the ones I was interested in,” Meyers said.
She learned a valuable lesson in the process.
“The coaches were all super friendly and wanted to learn about me and why I was interested,” Meyers said. “They’d answer any questions I had. The coaches were all really super awesome. That was the hardest part. I had to learn not to choose a school for the coach.”
The first school to pique Meyers’ interest was Colorado Mesa. She and her family took a trip to the Grand Junction, Colo., campus and she became enamored with Mavericks coach Kinsey Laine, but during the recruiting process, Laine left Colorado Mesa to become the first head coach ever at Cal Poly.
“She was the one who drew me to the school,” Meyers said.
So Meyers regrouped, researched and reignited her pursuit of the right school and program.
She landed on Duquesne, which is located in Pittsburgh.
“One of the races I’ve already been to is there,” Meyers said. “So we’ve kind of explored the area. It’s not like it’s some place I’ve never been to.”
Nor an atmosphere she’s unfamiliar with.
“Ever since I started triathlon, I knew,” Meyers said. “I knew this was the sport I really liked. Every summer, we go up to three or four races in Iowa, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, just all over. It’s something we’ve done for something like six years. I just really enjoy the atmosphere.
“I knew I wanted to take it to the next level. When I heard they needed 40 schools and they reached that point to add women’s triathlon as an NCAA sport, I started looking at all the possibilities.”
As she learned while competing on the USA Triathlon circuit, anything is possible.
“I like the atmosphere of everyone wanting to bring each other up to success together,” Meyers said. “It’s wanting to see the whole sport emerge. It’s so different than other sports. It brings these disciplined athletes together who want to excel at a deeper level.”
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