University of Maine third-year athlete Asaad Hicks is still relatively new to the sport of track and field, but you’d never know that by watching him compete.
Hicks, from Hartford, Conn, came to UMaine with no intention of joining the track team. In high school, basketball was his main sport, and it wasn’t until his senior year that he finally decided to give track and field a try.
“I usually played basketball but my senior year I couldn’t do AAU, so I still wanted a sport to play in the spring,” Hicks said.
That sport turned out to be track and field, where he could leverage some of his basketball skills into high jump, the event that he now specializes in at UMaine. Hicks’ love for track, specifically the high jump, grew as he learned more about the event and the complexity that come with it.
“I really enjoy it because it’s an event that takes a lot of practice and discipline to become successful in,” Hicks said. “Not a lot of people can just go into it and immediately do well.”
Hicks more than anyone understands that. After posting a personal best of 6 feet in high school, Hicks hadn’t planned on joining the track team at UMaine and wasn’t sure if his personal bests were good enough to warrant a spot on the roster. It wasn’t until several other athletes convinced him to try out that coaches were able to see the vast amount of potential he possessed.
That personal best of 6 feet has now shot all the way up to 6 feet 10 inches, the third best indoor high jump ever at UMaine. Many athletes are lucky to obtain a 10-inch improvement in a personal best over the course of their entire track career; Hicks has done that in just three years.
Part of this success comes from the raw talent and high vertical leap that Hicks honed while playing basketball. But with such a technical event like high jump, just being able to jump can only get you so far, which is where Hicks gives much of the credit to UMaine sprints and jumps Asaad Hicks Coach Chris Flynn.
“Coach Flynn has improved my run-up and form so much since I first started track,” Hicks said. “There’s no way I would have done this well without his help.”
For all the success he’s experienced thus far, Hicks isn’t satisfied yet. High jump is an event that requires not just great physical gifts, but a vast amount of mental strength as well. After a performance at the America East Championships that left him extremely disappointed, Hicks knew he had to work on his mental strength and refocus his vision.
“If I don’t do as well as I’d hope I just try to forget about it and focus on the next meet,” Hicks said. “Hanging out with my teammates and cheering them on in their events helps take my mind off my bad performances.”
Hicks was able to do that after his performance at the conference meet, going from not clearing a height to jumping 6 feet 4 inches at the New England Championship meet and 6 feet 6 inches at IC4As.
Hicks’ focus is now on the outdoor season, and more specifically, clearing the much sought after height of 7 feet.
“I want to at least tie the [University of Maine] all-time record [of seven feet] and be able to qualify for NCAA Regionals,” Hicks said. “That’s the dream right there.”
Clearing 7 feet is something coach Flynn knows Hicks is capable of.
“There’s no doubt in my mind he can get over it,” Flynn said. “He has all the talent in the world, now it’s just about harnessing it and working on the little things.”
Hicks starts his outdoor season off with a home meet on April 2 where he’ll have his first shot at breaking the school record and setting himself up for an NCAA Regional qualification.