North Hills sophomore Caitlyn Biel is a Taekwondo state champion and added a regional championship to her growing resume June 1.
Biel won gold in the forms category of competition at the American Taekwondo Association's United States Northeast Division Championship in Downingtown, Pa. That same day, she took silver medals in two other categories: weapons and sparring.
Over the past three years, Biel has won 11 total championships (including her Northeast regional gold). She won three state championships in each of three categories in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
"It's based on the dedication and time and effort she puts into it," said Biel's instructor, Master Jeff Steiger. "She's a gifted athlete, but it's something she works at."
Biel, a Ross Township resident, has studied Taekwondo since she was 7 at Steiger's Black Belt Academy on Perry Highway. Currently, Biel is a third-degree black belt in Taekwondo. At age 14, she has reached the highest level she can reach until she turns 18.
In the 2013 regular season, Biel's match record was 29-1 -- her only loss was to the ATA world champion in sparring Kendall Yount. But Biel didn't make the win easy for Yount.
"I was sparring my friend Kendall, and she had thrown a kick that caught me off guard and flung me up into the air. I landed on the ground and hurt my knee," Biel said.
The match was suspended while medics examined Biel's left knee, which had been recovering from a previous injury. Nonetheless, Biel got up and finished the match. She lost, 4-3, as time ran out.
"I think even though I lost that match, the best part for me was being able to say that I got back up and finished it," Biel said.
Sparring is Biel's favorite category of competition. In her training, she spars primarily against male students. In the weapons category, Biel specializes in the use of the double Ssahng joel bahng, often referred to as "nunchakus."
"I really enjoy watching [Biel] spar -- she has a lot of beauty in her technique," Steiger said. "A lot of people have power; she's just got a lot of grace. That's where the art part of martial arts comes in."
In addition to being a champion, Biel helps other Academy students as a junior level instructor. She even assists at competitions as a judge.
"She's well liked in the school, and she is a very good role model for the other kids," Steiger said.