Editor’s Note: On June 23, 1972, a federal civil rights law was passed that prohibited sex-based discrimination in any educational institution that receives federal funding. Title IX also gave girls and women the equal opportunity to compete in sports across the country. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Title IX’s passing next summer, Hope College Athletics will share the memories and perspectives from Hope College student-athletes, coaches, and alumnae on the 9th of each month during the school year.
In our fourth installment, we spotlight sisters Heleyna and Ana Tucker, who also are teammates on the Hope College women’s cross country team that finished eighth at the 2021 NCAA Division III Championships. It was the Flying Dutch’s second-highest finish at nationals. This fall, with a boost from the Tucker sisters, the Flying Dutch also ran their way to NCAA Great Lakes Region and Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association team titles this fall. Ana, an exercise science major, earned All-America honors at nationals with an 11th-place finish. Heleyna, a mathematics major, ran in Hope’s top seven at nationals and finished 199th.
Ana and Heleyna, who attended H.H. Dow High School in Midland, Michigan, are part of a set of triplets along with their brother, Charles, who is studying computer science at the University of Michigan.
1. What does it mean to you to have the opportunity to be student-athletes and teammates at Hope College after this past fall?
Heleyna Tucker: Being at Hope together both in athletics and academics is so much fun. Having that support system always by my side if I need a pick-me-up is so special to me. This was my first year on the varsity team and my first nationals race, so Ana really helped me stay calm and ready. It’s interesting to see how similar and different we are, especially in academics. With Ana being an exercise science major and me a math major, it’s fun to learn from each other’s interests.
Ana Tucker: I am very grateful to have the privilege of being on the Hope Cross Country team with Heleyna. Heleyna and the entire team are always there to encourage each other — whether it be in school or on the race course. I couldn’t ask for a better group of friends! Heleyna always reminds me to keep having fun in the sport and she serves as a great example for the rest of the team. We both have different strengths and weaknesses, so it’s always good to be able to work together as a team to support each other.
2. What makes your sister such an exceptional student-athlete?
Heleyna Tucker: Ana has raced her way to many school records and awards throughout her career. It’s been a joy to both cheer her on and get a chance to compete with her at such high levels. As her sister, I’ve gotten to see her grow as a person, athlete, and student. Ana shows dedication and determination in everything she does and lets her love of running shine through her classes and research.
Ana Tucker: Heleyna has developed a lot over the years, and her perspective on running has grown throughout her experience at Hope. Heleyna is a natural leader. She shows a lot of love for the sport and compassion for her teammates. She sets strong goals for herself and is not afraid to pursue them with everything she’s got. Heleyna definitely inspires me to value every opportunity I get to run!
3. Who inspired each of you to take up competitive running? Did you start at the same time?
Heleyna Tucker: I started to compete in figure skating when I was about eight years old. When I was 12 years old, I started to run more and became fully committed to the sport. Ana started to run a few years before me, so I would say she inspired me to lace up my shoes and join my middle school’s track team nine years ago.
Ana Tucker: I was inspired to take up competitive running when I was in the fifth grade. I started out in a couple programs called Girls on the Run and Fleet Feet. I really enjoyed being in the family-like atmosphere of the track/cross country team. Heleyna started running a few years after me, but her motivation and encouragement inspired me to continue running as the years went on.
4. What do you plan to do with your Hope College education?
Heleyna Tucker: As a current mathematics major, I plan to graduate and look toward earning a masters degree. As far as jobs go, there are many to choose from. I hope to use my mathematical background to collaborate and help others with whatever job I choose.
Ana Tucker: I plan to become a physical therapist. I would love to help others live life to their fullest by helping them overcome injury. I am not sure which specialty I would like to go in, but I look forward to exploring the career further in PT-school.