When she was a baby, Alicia McBride used to go with her mother, Tracie, to every Fort Wayne Derby Girl practice and bout. As soon as she could walk, Alicia could skate.
That kind of a head start has the now 11-year-old skating away from almost everyone. She's already broken six national records (two more than her mother), and McBride will travel to Germany for an international training camp and competition in April.
“The sky is the limit for her,” Bell's Speed Club coach Chris Keesler said. “She's accomplished a lot of amazing things.”
Evidenced by her fluid stride and complete comfort rolling around any environment, McBride was essentially born on skates. Her mother, known as Majestic, was always one of the fastest and most athletic of the original Derby Girl skaters, and then she took up speedskating to improve. Though Tracie recently retired, her daughter has inherited her competitive and ultra-aggressive spirit along with her speed.
Alicia never waved at mom sitting in the stands before races because she was concentrating too much on lapping her competition. She's also athletic, competing in gymnastics, cross country, track and volleyball along with roller derby and speedskating. It's hard to wear her out.
“She's the kid you find on top of the refrigerator looking for the scissors,” Tracie said.
Alicia hates to lose, though she hasn't done it often, only a few times at national meets. She has already earned one national title on the indoor circuit and three more gold medals along with a silver and a bronze in outdoor national competition. (She's also part of the Derby Brats.)
Usually when Alicia has lost, Keesler said, it's because she did something wrong and possibly fell or someone else did something wrong that put her in a position where she wasn't able to recover.
“She just accelerates and pulls off such a massive gap at the start that nobody has enough time to close on her by the end of the race,” Keesler said. “Now, she's getting to the point age-wise, her start is still quick, but she doesn't pull off those massive start gaps. Now, the gaps are half the distance and they have the time to close the gap.”
So the coach is emphasizing technique and fundamentals every day in practice, which will become more important against better competition.
The Blackhawk Middle School sixth grade honor roll student is usually the smallest skater on the track – 4-foot-10 of wiry strength and energy. She has broken her left arm twice during falls, but that hasn't limited her aggressiveness. She's also used to competing up against higher ages.
“It's good for her because she doesn't seem to be intimidated by others,” Tracie said.
Alicia calls skating a passion that is fun and feels natural, and her derby stage name certainly fits.
“I have a bit of an attitude,” she admitted. “I like people to leave me alone and let me do my thing. I really want to be past my mom. I used to just be called Majestic's daughter, but now I'm considered Fireball. I'm a good jammer, and now I think I'm even better than my mom.”
The trip to Germany this spring is to expand her comfort zone, but also to motivate her to continue improving.
“There will be athletes from all over the world there, and it will be tough,” Keesler said. “In international competition it's handsy, and there will be a lot of pushing. Being Americans, we are hated wherever we go, and that's something she'll have to deal with. If you touch them, we get penalized. If they touch you, we don't see anything. She'll just have to learn to deal with that's how it is and learn how to skate better than everybody else.”
The biggest reason to go on the trip is to expose McBride to international skating before her potential first competition at a world championships. Keesler compares his protégé to former indoor skater Erin Jackson, who switched over and qualified for the 2018 Olympics as a long-distance ice skater.
That's a long way down the track, though, but Alicia still has a long lead on her goals.
“There's a lot of room for growth within our own country and our own competitions,” Keesler said. “You can see the maturity level coming along.”