Abby Nichols wasn’t necessarily expecting to turn in a memorable performance when she toed the starting line at the Stanford Invitational nearly two weeks ago.
It was, as Colorado’s senior distance specialist admitted, a “rust buster race” as Nichols looked to set a strong opening pace to the outdoor track and field season. Instead, Nichols turned in a time of 15 minutes, 27.11 seconds in the 5,000-meter run. That mark tops the NCAA to start the week and ranks fourth all-time in CU history.
“I didn’t expect it to be a super-competitive, first rust-buster. You kind of expect more of a comfortable race that I’m able to finish hard in,” Nichols said. “Then before the race the pacer said what her plan was, and I was like ‘OK, I guess I’ll go for it.’ So I wasn’t too surprised when I crossed the line and saw the time. I knew I was going fast. It was exciting to get a time like that.”
A transfer from Ohio State completing her second year at CU and final year of eligibility, Nichols qualified for the NCAA outdoor championships in the 5K and 10K for the Buffs last year, finishing 17th in the 5K. Nichols made an even bigger impact during cross country season last fall, finishing eighth at the NCAA championships while leading the CU women’s team to a fourth-place finish in the team standings.
She is eyeing more of the same with the start of the outdoor postseason at the Pac-12 Conference championships about a month away.
“I think I’m at a good spot,” Nichols said. “A runner always wants more and more and more. I’m definitely antsy to be better than I am now, but I definitely appreciate where I’m at and how far I’ve come. I’m just trying to be in the moment at the races and not worry too much about the future.”
Coming off her indoor national championship in the women’s one-mile, CU senior Micaela DeGenero was expecting to make her outdoor debut in the 800 during the CU Invitational last season, but she erred on the side of caution and instead opted to rest a minor injury.
Nevertheless, DeGenero’s confidence has reached new heights after winning a national championship, and despite the minor injury setback she remains confident it will lead to equally big things before the end of the outdoor season as well.
“There’s not a lot of time between indoor and outdoor, and the big meets keep coming,” said DeGenero, who, like Nichols, is finishing her eligibility after transferring to CU nearly two years ago from a Big Ten school (Michigan). “Winning indoors has been a huge confident boost for me. It doesn’t change a whole lot. The training is still the same. We’re still going to the same meets. There’s just a little bit of extra confidence to go into those races and be able to run really fast.”
After comfortably winning the men’s 1,500 in his final home meet on Saturday during the annual CU Invitational, Buffs senior Eduardo Herrera on Tuesday was named the Pac-12 men’s track athlete of the week. Herrera won the event by eight-plus seconds, finishing with a time of 3:44.46. After an altitude conversion, that time correlates to a 3:39.11, which leads the NCAA West Region and ranks fourth nationally.
Following Nichols’ athlete of the week honor from last week, it is the first time two CU athletes have collected the award in consecutive weeks.