Pre-Nationals XC Women — Nichols Paces Powerful Colorado

Northern Arizona’s Taryn O’Neill hung with eventual winner Abby Nichols awhile, but ended up 4th. (ROBERT THOMAS)

TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA, October 15 — Colorado’s Abby Nichols outsprinted Arkansas’s Lauren Gregory in the last 75m to take the Pre-Nationals women’s title by just over a second, 19:46.4–19:47.7. Nichols’ showing led the Buffs’ dominating 54–149 team win over Utah.

The race saw several lead changes over the 6K course. By 5, reached in 16:32, the group had shrunken to 6 contenders including Northern Arizona’s Taryn O’Neill (winner of the Paul Short Invitational), Colorado’s Emily Covert (3rd at the Cowboy Jamboree) and Gregory (runner up at the Dellinger Invitational).

Colorado’s Nichols and Covert worked together at the front to lead the Buff charge. For Nichols, her fitness was a bit of a surprise as an injured iliotibial band didn’t allow her to train all summer or do any cross training.

“I missed a whole summer of training. I just didn’t know how it would go this year. I think with a year’s running under me and God, I just am here,” said an elated Nichols afterwards. “Mark [Wetmore] and Heather [Burroughs] and this team have pushed me so hard. I’m just so thankful. I tried to use the confidence I had from last year to help remind myself that I belonged in that pack.”

In the final kilo, Nichols and Gregory were able to open some daylight and make it a 2-woman race. Gregory led and looked to be in command at race’s end, but the fast-charging Nichols came blowing by for the win.

“That seems just how cross country ends up like,” said runner-up Gregory. “It’s ‘Oh, I’m winning, oh I’m in 7th and then I’m winning again.’ I feel like it’s just not over until it is over. Obviously I got kicked in the end. She just came up from behind and it was fast. I wasn’t shutting down. I just have to figure out my kick situation. I just need to tap into my track legs a little.”

Nichols had “settled in” after ascending the last big hill known as The Wall, but started to make up some ground in the end. “They weren’t gaining too much on me and I started gaining some ground and just kept going,” she said.

The Buffs and the Utes moved best over the 6K course. Colorado had its top 5 in before anyone’s top 3 and Utah overcame host Florida State in the final kilometer to take 2nd.

“I think they ran excellently,” said Buff head Heather Burroughs. “In the results, I can’t be disappointed, I can’t be greedy. They won and they won by a lot. We were here in February. We’re way ahead of February’s team’s time. It’s a good team.”

Utes coach Kyle Kepler was also positive following the race, saying, “Like everybody we’ve been working really hard. I wanted to come out and get a sense of the national meet course because we hope to be back in 5 weeks.

“I think our kids did what we always do. We try to duplicate what we’ve been doing in practice. Staying in groups and running together and running for each other. I think that’s their focus right now. We definitely have some areas we need to improve. We came and got done what we needed to get done today.”


Teams: 1. Colorado 54; 2. Utah 149; 3. Florida State 163; 4. Mississippi 165; 5. North Carolina 184; 6. Arkansas 243; 7. Northern Arizona 279; 8. Liberty 279; 9. Illinois 302; 10. Georgetown 317.

Individuals (6K): 1. Abby Nichols (Co) 19:46.4; 2. *Lauren Gregory (Ar) 19:47.7; 3. Lauren Ryan (FlSt) 19:51.1; 4. *Taryn O’Neill’ (NnAz-Can) 19:53.4; 5. ***Emily Covert (Co) 19:54.6; 6. *Adelyn Ackley (Lib) 20:05.0; 7. Calli Doan (Lib) 20:05.0; 8. Krissy Gear (Ar) 20:08.0; 9. India Johnson (Co) 20:08.4; 10. Joyce Kimeli’ (Aub-Ken) 20:10.9;

11. ***Addie Engel (OhSt) 20:11.0; 12. Bella Williams (Ut) 20:11.6; 13. *Emily Venters (Ut) 20:11.9; 14. **Camila Noe (MtSt) 20:12.4; 15. Paige Hofstad (NC) 20:12.4; 16. Rachel McArthur (Co) 20:13.5; 17. Anna Elkin (Ms) 20:13.9; 18. *Emma Milburn (Il) 20:14.3; 19. **Sintayehu Vissa’ (Ms-Ita) 20:15.4; 20. ***Joy Chirchir’ (Tol-Ken) 20:15.8;

21. Billie Hatch (Web) 20:15.9; 22. ***Tori Herman (Ky) 20:16.1; 23. ***Hannah Miniutti (Co) 20:16.5; 24. **Isabel Van Camp (Ar) 20:16.5; 25. **Charlotte Tomkinson (Duke) 20:17.9; 26. **Maggie Donahue (Gtn) 20:19.6; 27. *Sami Corman (Gtn) 20:19.7; 28. ***Parker Valby (Fl) 20:19.9; 29. **Ryann Helmers (Ms) 20:23.3; 30. Madie Boreman (Co) 20:23.8. ◻︎