‘Beating the boys,’ Hardy following her father’s triathlete footsteps

Published 2:15 pm Friday, May 26, 2023

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BUSH, La — Rising fifth-grader Alexa Hardy is a young lady of many interests. She plays softball, does gymnastics, paints, is in Girls Scouts, acts in commercials and movies and is acting in the upcoming Snow White play put on by the Natchez Little Theatre. 

Last weekend, she placed seventh out of 17 competitors – and second in the girls division –  in the 6-10 age group of her first official race: the Crawfish Man triathlon this past weekend. She completed the race in 26 minutes and 29 seconds. She had to swim 100 meters, bike two miles and run a mile. 

Her parents Neifa and Andrell Hardy and brother Conor were on the sidelines, cheering her along the way. Alexa said swimming is her favorite event and it was the final event of the day when she hit the 85 degree water. She also likes “beating the boys.” 

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“It was hard and I was tired, really tired. I was swimming in a lake and I couldn’t see anything. The water was brown and I couldn’t see underwater like I could in a pool,” Alexa said. “My dad pushed me to keep going. He did it during training too. I remember one day I didn’t want to swim three laps because I was tired. He was like ‘keep going. You got one more,’ he pushed me. It helped in the race, and I had a lot of energy at the end.” 

Before the race, Andrell had told Alexa if she got third place overall she would get a huge prize and if she finished in the top 10 overall she would get a small prize. Alexa said her dad was in a good mood and rewarded her with the huge prize of Slime for her performance. “Slime is just so satisfying,” she said. 

Alexa is following in her father’s footsteps by racing in triathlons. Andrell has competed in half Ironmans and the Ironman race held in Cozumel, Mexico. His first triathlon came when he was stationed at Fort Lewis in Washington State. 

Some of his buddies in the service made a bet on if they could do a triathlon so they did. He was hooked. Alexa said she wanted to do a triathlon after watching her dad compete in the Ironman race for the past four years. 

Ironman consists of a 112-mile bike ride, a 2.4-mile open water swim and a 26.2-mile marathon run. Andrell competes in the event in November and takes part in other triathlons around the year and competed in the Crawfish Man triathlon this past Sunday after the kids triathlon on Saturday. Alexa said watching her dad compete sparked an interest. 

“I saw my dad doing the Ironman and I thought ‘oh that looks fun,’ I just wanted to do it,” Alexa said. “I plan to compete in another one and do a triathlon in each of the 50 states. I really want to do a triathlon in Philadelphia because my social studies teacher (Nic) Webb got us to spin a wheel and I was assigned Pennsylvania so I want to go there.”  

Andrell prepared his daughter for the first race by training three days a week. One day was for swimming, one for biking and the other for running. Once Alexa was comfortable with the distance, they increased the volume. As she gets older, they might add more to the training regime. 

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Andrell said each year when the family travels to Cozumel they spend one of the two weeks engaging in community service projects on the island with non-profit organizations House of Opportunity. School supplies and clothes donated by people and family in Natchez make the trip and are distributed to the less fortunate. The service project gets bigger every year, he said. Neifa and Andrell try to teach their kids about the importance of giving back. 

One day, Andrell hopes to become a triathlon coach like Megan Duncan, the coach of his current triathlon and endurance sports team called TNT.  He said he hopes to get others in the community to give endurance sports a try. 

Wednesday was awards day at Cathedral, where Conor and Alexa go to school. Alexa was awarded the Good Citizen Award in her grade. Neifa said she asked the teachers what the award meant. 

“They told me the importance of it. Out of all of the awards, the good citizen award is voted by the class. It is voted by their peers,” Neifa said. “They vote based on kindness, respectfulness, who is being a good student and helpful. It was important to me that her peers see those qualities in her. I was really excited about it.” 

Alexa will be 10 in June and once July rolls around she will be looking for the next triathlon to compete in. Neifa said they might go to Alabama, Texas or Louisiana to compete in the next race.