Kikut sisters excel after transition from skiing to sprinting

by Kourtney Kawano | 4/9/15 6:01pm

4.10.15.sport_.Kikut-Twins_Alice-Harrison
Sisters Anna and Sara Kikut ’16 were recruited as competitive skiers, but successfully switched to track and field.
Source: ALICE HARRISON/THE DARTMOUTH STAFF

Competing as full-time sprinters for Dartmouth’s track and field team was not what sisters Anna and Sara Kikut ’16 had in mind when they first came to the College. They were formally recruited as competitive ski racers after spending their junior and senior years attending the Green Mountain Valley School, a ski academy in Waitsfield, Vermont.

In addition to skiing, the twins knew they wanted some way to stay in shape during the off-seasons. With two years’ experience as track and field athletes from their freshmen and sophomore years of high school, the Kikuts found a way to do so.

Sara contacted women’s track and field head coach Sandra Ford-Centonze to ask if they could train with the sprinters and explained their situation — they would train with the track team on their off days in the fall and compete in the outdoor season after completing the intense skiing carnival season during the winter.

Ford-Centonze said that after the girls completed a time trial, she worked with them to map a plan so they could incorporate both sports.

“I always saw track as a sport that was a training method for ski racing, so anything to help my skiing, I wanted to do,” Anna said.

While balancing one varsity sport with classwork may be difficult for most at an Ivy League school, the girls managed to juggle their academic schedules with the needs of two varsity sports during their freshmen years and part of their sophomore years.

In 2013, Anna placed seventh in women’s slalom at the Middlebury Carnival, and Sara won second-team All-American honors at the NCAA Championships for her seventh-place finish in slalom. In the spring, the girls competed in preliminaries of the 100m and 200m dash at the 2013 Ivy League Outdoor Heptagonal Championships. Sara placed 10th with a 12.25s finish in the 100m, and Anna ran a 12.48s sprint to finish 15th.

“Doing two sports was fine because they have two different seasons,” Sara said. “It was just a long time competing.”

Although they found success in both sports, the girls ultimately ended up competing only in track and field. Anna decided to make the transition to track and field first after suffering a back injury that prevented her from skiing in the middle of the season.

“It was difficult to balance because skiing requires training six hours a day,” Anna said. “But managing both was never an issue. They’re very compatible sports.”

Sara participated in both sports for two years before transitioning to track and field full-time this school year.

“I found the training for track to be easier because we don’t need a lot of resources,” Sara said. “As a student-athlete, you couldn’t get a better sport than track when comparing the two sports.”

The transition to full-time track and field athletes, Ford-Centonze said, was easy with the lifting and conditioning they did for skiing and the practices they attended with the track team.

“There were times when they had a particularly hard skiing practice and the next day was an off-day, but they came to track practice because they didn’t want to fall behind,” Ford-Centonze said. “There was respect in that sense and when they transitioned. I think there was general excitement.”

For Sara, the transition itself was easy, but picking up on the technicality of sprinting was difficult at first.

“We didn’t have the same training as others on the team,” Sara said. “But our teammates were so helpful and we’re the type of people who ask questions when we’re confused and the track team was so accepting.”

As sophomores, Anna and Sara competed in both the indoor and outdoor seasons. In the 60m dash, Anna ran a personal record of 7.95s at the 2014 Dartmouth Classic while Sara ran a personal record of 7.78s at the 2014 Indoor Heptagonal Championships. Since their freshmen year, the girls have also teamed up for their favorite event, the 4x100m relay with classmates Kaitlin Whitehorn ’16 and Jennifer Meech ’16, running the second and third legs.

“I think our handoff is the most difficult in the relay,” Sara said. “It’s easy because when we run into difficulties with each other, we’re over it in five minutes so I think we have a special advantage.”

At the 2014 Heps, the relay team placed second and broke the previous meet record with their time of 45.59s.

“We ran a really fast time and everything came together and our handoffs were great,” Sara said. “It was a great group accomplishment.”

At that same meet, Sara went on to place sixth in the 100m dash with a time of 11.95s and second in the 200m dash with a time of 24.15s to earn All-Ivy Second-Team honors.

Although there is a natural competitiveness between the two in their individual events, neither takes the sibling rivalry seriously.

“We push each other,” Sara said. “In the lifting room, she pushes me, and during intervals, I tend to push the pace.”

Anna said the sisters have always competed in the same sports, so what happens on the track or the slopes stays there.

“If one of us has a really good race, it doesn’t matter if the other has a bad or good day,” Anna said. “Either way, it’s a successful day.”

Ford-Centonze said the sisters’ support for one another definitely outweighs the competitiveness. She noticed this during Anna and Sara’s freshmen year, when they ran the same split times in a 100m dash despite the fact they were in different heats.

“That was when I saw the competitive juices, the desire to one-up the other,” Ford-Centonze said. “But there’s definitely a sisterly and familial love.”

Since their time as competitive ski racers, the sisters have always roomed together the night before a race. The next morning, Anna said, the sisters would have fun listening to music together and feed off each other’s positive energy and to feel calm before the races.

Their home races are usually special for them as their grandfather makes it a priority to always watch them compete.

“He always hugs us,” Anna said. “And if one of us has a bad race, he tells us, ‘Well, you gave the other one a shot.’”

They have developed as sprinters by learning from one another.

“We watch each other the most, so if [Anna’s] taking long strides, I’ll quicken my steps,” Sara said. “Sometimes our styles of things are exaggerated in the opposite direction.”

Though they compete in similar events for track, the girls have slightly different academic paths at Dartmouth. Sara is a math and social sciences major and is conducting bioinformatics research for the Geisel School of Medicine. Anna is a neuroscience major geared towards a pre-med track and is involved in Kappa Delta Epsilon sorority.

The girls are currently focusing on having another strong outdoor season. Both gave solid performances at the 2015 Heps, placing second in their respective relays — the distance medley for Anna and the 4x440-yard relay for Sara. The sisters, however, are also working through ongoing injuries from the indoor season and training in the fall.

“A lot of it has to do with the fact that we have weaknesses from tailoring our bodies through skiing,” Sara said. “I think it’s finally caught up to us.”

Ford-Centonze, however, is confident the girls will continue to improve and run faster.

“The past two years, they have really shined at the championships,” Ford-Centonze said. “I don’t expect any different going into the outdoor championship coming up in May.”

While Sara is awaiting clearance to compete with her injuries, Anna and the rest of the track team are preparing for this Saturday’s George Mason Invitational held in Fairfax, Virginia.