In recent years, Liberty Ricca has established herself as one of the top prep cross-country and track-and-field athletes in the state. The Discovery Canyon senior is the defending Class 4A state champion in the 3,200-meter run. Last fall, she finished seventh at the state cross country meet.
Competitive running is not Ricca’s passion, nor is it even her favorite sport. But as an elite triathlete, running is an integral part of the event.
“Running is my least favorite,” she said with a smile. “But I’ve gotten a lot better at it over the years.”
Ricca’s abilities as a triathlete prompted Arizona State University to extend a scholarship offer to her. She officially signed her national letter of intent with ASU in November, but she joined nine of her fellow classmates on stage during a festive ceremony Feb. 6 at Discovery Canyon.
ASU is the three-time defending national champion.
“I know a lot of the girls on the team,” Ricca said. “I’m really looking forward to training with them.”
Ricca was joined at the signing ceremony by Savannah Ruane (lacrosse, Adams State); Patrick Allis (wrestling, Western Colorado); Hannah Pethtel (volleyball, Western Colorado); Nick Lorenz (tennis, Bryant University, Smithfield, R.I.); Sammy Edwards (softball, Colorado Christian University); Cora Ferguson (softball, St. Lawrence University, Canton, N.Y.); Zach Anderson (football, Colorado Mesa); Brianna Ridings (swimming, University of Arkansas Little Rock) and Ashten Prechtel (basketball, Stanford).
Triathlon is not a sanctioned CHSAA sport, which means Ricca puts in a lot of hours each day training by herself or with other elite-level athletes.
“I spend three or four hours training each day,” she said.
Ricca swims for Pikes Peak Athletics and runs with Kokopelli in Colorado Springs. Lisa Rainsberger, mother of former Air Academy standout runner Katie (now at Washington) is the Kokopelli’s head coach.
In the winter, she trains on a stationary bike in the basement of her house with her father, Eli.
“Biking is my favorite,” Ricca said.
Ricca began doing triathlons at age 6 or 7.
“I started competing hardcore at 12,” she said. “I fell in love with it.”
Ricca competes in triathlon at the national and international level. Some of her races this spring and summer will take place in Florida, Iowa, Virginia, Washington and Ohio.
Last summer, Ricca competed in the Youth Olympic Games in Ecuador. She will race with the USA National Team again this year.
USA Triathlon is based in Colorado Springs. Tim Yount, the chief sport development officer, was at the Discovery Canyon signing ceremony and spoke about Ricca.
“She’s one of our top junior triathletes,” he said. “She’s learned to race well. She has great focus and attitude in the sport. She has incredible wingspan for the swim. She has long leavers on the bike. And she’s proven she can run.
“ASU is ecstatic to have her go there. We think she’s on that trajectory to be a star in the sport.”