Observer-Reporter Athlete of the Week : Natalie Hilton, South Fayette
Name: Natalie Hilton
School: South Fayette
Sport: Track and Field
Hilton’s week: Hilton won the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs last Thursday at Baldwin High School to lead the South Fayette girls track and field team to its first WPIAL Class AA team title, edging Freeport (80-70), Southmoreland (106-44) and Beaver (79-71).
South Fayette coach Joe Winans figured his team would have to do well in the distance events to counteract the advantage Beaver had in the sprints. It came down to Hilton and Freeport’s Kayla Zboran in the 1,600 and 3,200.
“For (Zboran) having an edge over Natalie in experience, I was hoping Natalie would be able to respond the way I know she knows how,” Winans said. “Her victories in the 1,600 and 3,200 were clutch.”
Running legacy: Hilton is the younger sister of Nicole Hilton, who won a PIAA Class AA title for the 3,200 in 2011.
Though Nicole is now at Ohio State, Winans, who coached both, can pick out more than a few similarities.
Winans said Natalie has more natural foot speed than Nicole, yet both understand races instinctively.
“Their maturity and they understand the strategy behind races is strikingly similar,” Winans said.
Seeing a sign: A sign that commemorates Nicole Hilton’s state title can be seen rather easily when a driver exits I-79 in Bridgeville and turns onto Miller’s Run Road.
Natalie Hilton sees that sign plenty on the way to her McDonald home, but she’s not intimidated by living up to the legacy her sister left behind.
“It was a little hard at first because I knew people expected a lot out of me,” Natalie said. “But I just tried to run my own race and be my own runner.”
And the sign?
“It is a little weird because it seems like every entrance to the town has her name on it, but it’s pretty cool to think that it’s my sister; maybe I’ll be there one day, too,” Natalie added. “I guess it’s not too bad to look at.”
About that foot speed: Winans, a former college distance runner himself, raved about Natalie Hilton’s ability to kick it into gear, something that happened on the bell lap of the 3,200 at last year’s WPIAL individual championships. Hilton went from fifth to second in about 400 meters to finish with a second-place time of 11:25.13.
“When Natalie decides to make that early move, that’s where she can bury a race,” Winans said. “Just with her ability to close out and finish.”
It’s a school night: The team track finals didn’t end until close to 10 p.m. – too late, apparently, for South Fayette to celebrate properly.
“We were going to get ice cream, but that got vetoed,” Hilton said. “Guess it was a little late for that. But it was a lot of fun. We were excited.”
– Compiled by Jason Mackey