Former Panther Hursey has Olympic aspirations

Running and swimming have taken Katie Hursey all around the world.
Starting as a standout youth swimmer, and then becoming a perennial all-county runner at North Carroll, Hursey wrapped up her college career at Syracuse in 2012 and decided to start competing on the professional triathlon circuit.
Her ability was evident immediately.
On a three-race tour across Europe, Hursey raced to victory in the Palamos ITU Triathlon World Cup finishing the race in 2 hours, 1 minute, 19 seconds - the first of the three races.
"Honestly I had not expected to win Palamos. I was going into Palamos with the goal to get top 10-15," Hursey said via email. "My last few races have shown me that I have the potential to do really well and at Palamos, every aspect of the race came together with my swim, bike, run and transitions.
"It was really an awesome moment."
Now there is one more destination that sticks out to Hursey - Rio de Janeiro.
The 2016 Summer Olympics will be held in capital city of Brazil, and Hursey's time at Palamos would have placed her ninth in the 2012 London games.
While it seems to be an attainable goal, there is a lot of time remaining before the games begin and Hursey isn't channeling her focus on the world's top triathlon competition.
"The end game and biggest goal is of course to qualify for the Olympics, however there are a lot of process goals I have to reach before I will be able to reach that one," Hursey said. "I definitely think that it is an achievable goal. ... I have 3 more years to develop as a triathlete to reach my goal."
The final leg of Hursey's European tour is the Tiszaujvaros ITU Triathlon World Cup that starts today in Hungary. In addition to her victory, Hursey placed 35th in the World Triathlon Hamburg so she will be looking for another top-40 finish.
Qualifying for future ITU races is based on points earned which comes from performance. All three of the European races count, but Hursey plans on dialing it down a bit when she returns to the United States.
Competing in what are known as non-draft races - which means the races don't accumulate points on the ITU circuit - Hursey said she is looking forward to the change of pace.
"I'm also going to compete in some super sprints in Las Vegas and San Diego and I have a couple more world cups left," Hursey said. "The rest of my season consists of a variety of different types of races and distances which is going to be a fun end to my season."
Although she excelled at cross country and track during her high school career - she totaled six Times Runner or Athlete of the Year awards between cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track - Hursey continued to swim on the side.
At the college level, the triathlon is an event and with her background, she said it looked like a good fit.
Currently, the Olympic triathlon consists of a 1,500-meter swim, a 40-kilometer bike ride and 10-kilometer run, and the variety is something that really appeals to Hursey. It also presented the biggest difference from straight running events.
"The races don't just come down to one aspect, it's more that just running," Hursey said. "You have to have a good swim and a fast transition to make the front bike pack. If you miss this pack it is really difficult to catch up on the run."
After finishing up in Hungary, Hursey will head back to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Col., where she resides. Although she has competed in many high-profile races throughout her career, Hursey admits the life she leads now wasn't one she expected.
"I never could have imagine where my swimming and running background has taken me. I am living my dreams right now and have been given so many different opportunities," Hursey said. "I've been accomplishing goals that I never have thought possible and it's really just been an extraordinary experience."
If Hursey continues to progress, she may be fortunate enough to add going to Rio as one of those experiences.
Former youth sports and North Carroll track teammate Brittany Poist has known Hursey since her early teens and isn't surprised by the success. Throughout their athletic careers, Poist said the duo have pushed each other to reach the top.
"I feel like Katie and I were good friends because we both had big dreams. I had the experiences I did with the world team in lacrosse and now she has this," Poist said. "Katie was always the one who if I didn't want to try hard one day at practice or was discouraged, I didn't let it get to me because I knew she was working hard and we knew it would pay off.
"It really helps to know other people are striving for that. ... I'm not surprised by what she has accomplished."