TRACK: Nichols sets record at Indiana

Amber North

After competing its last two meets at Middle Tennessee State University, the Hilltopper track team finally got to face a variety of tough adversaries.

The team traveled to Bloomington, Ind., to participate at the Indiana Invitational, which included traditionally strong track and field schools such as Big Ten powerhouses Indiana University and Purdue as well as perennial Southern Conference favorites Western Carolina University and the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.

“It’s the best competition we’ve run all year,” head coach Curtiss Long said.

There weren’t many first place winners, with sophomore sprinter Jonathon Brown being the only one in the 200-meter dash. But there was still room for two more broken records to be marked in the stat book.

Without the senior leadership of Olga Cronin, who was out due to an academic assignment in Chicago, the women’s distance runners had to step up.

And they did just that.

Sophomore Cara Nichols wanted to improve on her personal best in the 800-meter run with a time of 2:16.74. What she didn’t know is that she would break that mark by three minutes.

It made her the new school record-holder with a 2:13.85 time.

“I’m surprised and happy,” Nichols said. “I never thought I’d break a school record in the 800 because I didn’t run it that much in high school and college.”

Nichols was also involved in another school record — this time, the distance medley relay. With sophomore Bonita Paul, senior Janette Pike and freshman Shanea Wilson running before her, Nichols anchored the relay with a record-breaking performance with a 12:01.19 time.

“All three before me ran great and put me in a good position to win the relay,” Nichols said.

Brown showcased his talent, placing third in the long jump along with his first-place win in the 200-meter dash.

“Brown is quite versatile,” Long said. “These are good experiences for him in the long jump and good competition.”

The throwing team did not perform as well as they did last weekend, when they broke three school records, but managed to remain strong in the competition.

Sophomore Raigo Toompuu is still performing a little sub-par with his wrist and ribs injuries, Long said. He also said it is encouraging to see freshman Kristo Galeta overcome two bad throws and come through on the third throw in the weight throws. Galeta placed 13th overall.

With the Sun Belt Conference championship just three weeks away, the team is training to be at its best level for the title.

The team will split to have its final meet at the Butler Canon Classic in Indianapolis, Ind., on Friday and Saturday and at the MTSU Classic on Saturday.

The team is splitting to give an opportunity for Brown to compete on a large track so he can get accustomed to a large track’s curve and prepare for the finals.

Another reason is that Butler has running events such as the 5,000-meter run and the distance medley relay, which MTSU does not offer.

With this, Long said he hopes to have performers run qualifying times to earn them seats in the conference championships.

“We’ll continue to run people in events and hopefully put the picture in focus,” Long said.

Reach Amber North at [email protected]