Accomplishments leave runner hungry for more

Three-time Big 12 champion Trisa Nickoley has worked on composure, strategy in races
Saturday, April 7, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:12 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Junior Trisa Nickoley, back, and former Tigers runner Ashley Patten train on the Hearnes Center track in February 2006. The 800-meter run is Nickoley’s most successful event.

Trisa Nickoley seems very unimposing. She has an easygoing, almost goofy, attitude.

For example, she claimed that she didn’t know anything about NCAA qualifying times.

“I’m blonde, it’s OK,” she said.

However, Nickoley has had about as much success on the track as any other Tiger. Nickoley is a world junior qualifier, a three-time Big 12 champion, nine-time all-Big 12 member, a high school all-American and a 17-time Kansas state high school champion.

Nickoley has accomplished these feats by maintaining her ability to compete in long- and middle-distance events, sometimes through three different seasons.

The 800-meter is Nickoley’s most successful event. She held the third-best time in the nation in high school at 2:06.67, she won the Big 12 indoor championship in 2005 and 2007, and she was the 800-meter runner in the Big 12 indoor championship distance medley relay team.

“For the 800, you have to have endurance and speed,” she said.

Despite this level of success, Nickoley has been disappointed with her performance since she got to Missouri. She said she has tried to forget her freshman year completely.

“I was not happy with it at all,” she said. “I was just getting used to being at college. I kind of choked a little bit in collegiate races.”

Nickoley’s coach, Rebecca Wilmes, said that Nickoley didn’t struggle as much as she thought during her freshman year.

“She still ran well, but she ran a 2:07 instead of a 2:05 or 2:06,” she said.

Nickoley was also disappointed about her performance last year going into the NCAA regionals.

“Last year, I was the first one knocked out at regs (regionals),” she said. “I didn’t have that great of a time.”

Nickoley said that she had a habit of front-running in high school because she was so much faster than everyone else. In college, she has had to adapt to running in the midst of women who are equally as fast as she is.

“I have a few years under my belt. I’m used to running races with people around,” she said. “If I tried to be a front-runner, I don’t know if I could make it.”

Nickoley was struggling after her failure to make nationals last year. Then she went to the Music City Distance Carnival (in Nashville) and had a breakthrough.

“I went to Tennessee and ran a 2:05 flat and then went to USATF outdoor championships,” she said.

She also said she has fixed her composure before meets.

“I think I was getting freaked out about things, but now I just stay calm and go out there,” she said. “My goal is to make nationals this year. I’ve been close.”

Wilmes said that Nickoley has become an athlete who can make things happen on the track.

“It takes a mature athlete to create, strategically, the type of race that fits her,” she said. “Freshman year, she let the races come to her.”

Last week, Nickoley ran a time of 2:05.37 in Arizona State’s Clif Bar invitational and in the process scored under the regional qualifying mark of 2:09.5.

“It (earning the regional qualifying mark) gives you a calmer feeling for the rest of the season,” she said.

Nickoley only lost to Michigan’s Katie Erdman, whom Nickoley will likely face again at the Mideast regionals May 25 and 26. However, Nickoley will have an edge when the two face again in May, because the regionals will be held at Walton Stadium in Columbia.

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