Leader of the Pack
Tim Nichols continued his outstanding senior year at Tufts by winning his first national title, the 5,000 meters, at the 2017 NCAA Division III Men’s Indoor Track and Field Championships in Naperville, Illinois, on March 10.
Nichols was the No. 1 seed in the race after posting a 14:19.45 school record during the regular season. He did not disappoint during the race, winning with a time that set a new facility record at the Al B. Carius Track at North Central College, which hosted the meet. His 14:25.08 national championship mark was fractions better than a 14:25.39 track record set last year by North Central’s Tim Vazquez.
“It feels pretty cool to be a national champion,” Nichols said. “I think what helped me achieve this was running more miles this past summer, knowing that I had a big team watching the meet back at Tufts, and knowing my good friend from back home was at the meet.”
Scoring 10 team points for Tufts with the win, Nichols was first in the 5K by a margin of 3.07 seconds. North Central sophomore Dhruvil Patel was the runner-up in a 14:28.15 time.
Nichols went out in the front pack for the first couple of laps and tucked into second place through the mile. He went to the lead when the pace slowed in the middle mile. There were some back-and-forth lead changes before a pair of runners from Wisconsin-Eau Claire and another from Wartburg moved into the front with five laps to go. Nichols chased them in the final stretch. They made a bit of a gap with 600 meters to go, but he remained confident in his finishing kick. He moved into third just before the final lap, and then unleashed a huge sprint in the last 150 meters to pull away.
“My plan going into the race was a lot different from how it played out,” Nichols said. “I was planning on going out hard and just running really consistent splits until the end, but we ended up running all over the place, and there was a really early kick, so I had to really play it by ear.”
Nichols is a four-time All-American in his career. He was third individually at the NCAA cross-country championships last fall. He was also 19th at the 2016 NCAA cross-country race for All-American. He had one previous track All-American finish, a sixth in the outdoor 10,000 meters a year ago.
This is the Tufts men’s fifth NCAA track and field title in the last three years. Mitchell Black, a 2016 graduate, was the 800 meters champion indoors and outdoors in both 2015 and 2016.
In addition to the 5,000 win and taking third at Cross-Country Nationals, Nichols won the New England Small College Athletic Conference cross-country race and was the NCAA New England Region cross-country champion. He smashed school records in both the 5,000 meters and 3,000 meters this winter.
Paul Sweeney, Tufts’ sports information director, can be reached at email@example.com.