Hailey Poe wasn’t going to let an opportunity for a good oration go to waste.

The South Fayette High School senior, who was recently named a James Collins Scholar-Athlete Award Winners, would have been required to address the audience at a formal luncheon hosted by the WPIAL.

The annual May event was canceled, however, because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I sort of like it,” said Poe, who is her school’s Student Government Association president. “I give speeches all the time.”

Poe’s most recent speech acknowledged and thanked many important people in her life.

“It’s an incredible honor,” said the 18-year-old daughter of Lori and Davie Poe.

“Just knowing how many people were behind me in this process and supported me, my parents, my coaches, my teachers, advisors, siblings, teammates,” she added. “They all cheered me on and helped me through my journey. They allowed me to discover my potential.”

Poe will matriculate to North Central College. The Illinois school is one of the few in the nation that offers scholarships for triathletes. Poe will major in history and leadership while competing for the Cardinals.

“They really have an awesome program,” said Poe, who will also run track for North Central. “There team is amazing. Everybody is so encouraging and they have a great culture there. I really looked for a school like this because triathlon is what I wanted to do.”

Since age 7, Poe has competed in triathlons, an athletic competition that features swimming, cycling and running. Her first competitions were the Habitat For Humanity Kids Triathlon events held in South and North parks.

Poe became so proficient she earned a spot on the national team.

Last August, she competed for Team USA at the International Triathlon Union Age Group Sprint World Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland. She placed 16th in the 16-19 female age group.

Because she swam and ran for South Fayette, Poe bettered those aspects of competition. However, she admits her cycling needs honing.

“I really need to improve my bike skills and North Central can help with those. There I will be able to fine tune things to enable me to excel at the college level. I’m excited to see what they can do with me.”

Meanwhile, South Fayette has done much with Poe.

The Lions won three straight WPIAL cross country championships and their first PIAA crown in 2019. Poe had top 5 finishes in the past two district finals. Despite losing her shoe in the race, Poe finished 13th overall with a 20:22 in last year’s state championships.

A four-year letter winner, Poe also excelled in track and swimming for the Lions.

A butterfly specialist, she helped her medley relay teams qualify for states and break school records.

In track last spring, she helped the 4-by-800 relay place third at the WPIALs. Individually, she finished fifth in the 3,200-meter run.

Poe and the Lions had lofty expectations for the 2020 track season. However, the PIAA canceled all spring sports for the school year.

“I’m most disappointed for my team because we couldn’t push for our goals. We wanted to go for the WPIAL championship and place at states.” Poe said, adding she is sad for her teammates rather than herself. “I have a chance to compete in college. I know I have a future and am excited to see that happen.”

Poe’s immediate triathlon future has been placed on hold as several summer events have been canceled because of the pandemic. Plus, she has no pool in which to train.

Poe said she’s running almost every day. She bikes on her own on the trails or on her trainer at home.

“Sadly though I can’t swim,” she said.

Poe, however, is training using body weights during Pittsburgh Elite Aquatics Club workouts. She is also following training programs from her coaches.

“Just being able to train is one of the things helping me get through this,” she said of the coronavirus crisis.

In addition to competing as a three-sport standout for the Lions, Poe maintained a 4.1 GPA throughout her scholastic career. She was awarded a scholarship as part of being named a WPIAL scholar-athlete.

“It’s an amazing scholarship,” she said, “I owe this to all the people who supported me through all of my extracurricular activities.

“The people that surround me have been my biggest motivators. All the people that I have met through sports have broadened my horizons. A lot of people have helped me grow into the person that I have become emotionally, physically and mentally. I have them to thank for this.”

Almanac Sports Editor

An award-winning journalist, Eleanor Bailey has been employed by Observer Publishing Company since 1982. She is the sports editor at The Almanac and a contributor for the Observer-Reporter.

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