News Staff Writer
Practicing daily in the early mornings, sometimes twice a day, monitoring food intake, limiting social life, keeping up with school and wisely managing time: a UNC Asheville track athlete pushes herself rigorously through her athletic and collegiate journey.
Kayli Nichols, a junior political science and German student, exemplifies the hard work many college athletes do in order to reach their goals and aspirations.
“Before I ran track, I played soccer all of my life. From when I was 6 years old, my dad would tell me that I was going to get a scholarship to play soccer in college. That was one of my goals back then,” the 20-year-old said.
Nichols said in middle school many sports were offered, but outside of school she was already playing soccer. She liked running and competition so she decided to run track for the school.
She said that is when she realized she was better at track. She said she prefers playing an individual sport.
“I think I’m a very individual person because I like when I put in the work, I see the results in myself. I don’t have to rely on anyone else,” Nichols said.
Nichols said she also runs relay where she relies on her team members, making sure they contribute with their own hard work.
“It all comes down to me and what I choose to do and what I don’t choose to do, which impacts everything,” Nichols said. “At the end of the day, I cannot rely on anyone and my coach cannot help me.”
Track remains a personal and motivational tool for Nichols. It provides an outlet for her when she is stressed, upset or sad.
In high school, Nichols’s parents separated. This was a difficult situation for her and her brothers. She said going to track meant she was doing something for herself.
“I was not doing it for a team, which is great. I’m not saying I’m against the whole team concept, but I like being the only one accountable,” Nichols said.
Track changed her life because it helped her obtain a scholarship for college. When researching schools, she searched for schools where she could run because her goal was to obtain a scholarship for track.
With track, Nichols has come in contact with many new people of different backgrounds. It taught her about herself and made her responsible for her actions by helping her see how her actions carry consequences and results.
Before attending UNCA, Nichols attended UNC Wilmington. When the track program there was at risk of elimination, she started looking into new schools. The UNCW track coach helped her by contacting and referring her to several schools, including UNCA.
Joel Williams, UNCA’s track coach, contacted Nichols and informed her about the training program and how it would help her. The scholarship UNCA offered was higher than UNCW’s which was a huge factor for her.
She said she likes the individual program coach Joel does for training because at UNCW the coach had several runners practicing a general routine.
Nichols runs the 400-meter hurdles, 400 relay and the short hurdler.
“I have to touch on a lot of things to make sure I am getting the right training in,” Nichols said. “It’s harder when coaches generalize athletes. But here at UNCA my coach knows what events I run and my abilities”.
The German program and athletic program are the main reasons Nichols decided to attend UNCA.
“You train for hours and hours for a race that you might be running for 14 seconds and if you make a mistake, you had that one shot and you are done in that one second,” Nichols said.
Nichols said because of track she now views things differently. She goes into situations more open while being realistic at the same time because disappointment in the self can be harming.
“When you have a bad race, you have to get over it in 5 minutes because you then have to focus on the next race without bringing any of that negativity with you,” Nichols said.
According to the UNCA track records, Nichols set school records in various program events in indoor and outdoor track.
“It makes me feel good to have the record. But this is a small school so I am using UNCW’s records as a record to keep me going,” Nichols said. “I’m not proud of my times yet because I know that I can run faster. I want better times and that’s what I am working for.”
Nichols said the anxiety before a race is high because she has to think about how bad she will feel afterward and how sore she will be. However, improvement in her running times pushes her through the pain.
“You get a personal record each time. It’s better to focus positively,” Nichols said. “Everything has to come together for one race to get that time you want and that’s the hardest thing because you could feel sick. You could be worried. It could be raining, windy, cold or other things. But you must ignore everything in order to perform your best.”
Track taught Nichols to recognize a hard work ethic in herself and in others and to think positive before going into any situation.
“If you go in with a negative mentality from the start, then that means you have already lost,” Nichols said. “This comes in a life situation and race situation.”