NAPERVILLE, Ill. – Tufts University's Tim Nichols continued his outstanding senior year by winning the 5,000 meters national title at the 2017 NCAA Division III Men's Indoor Track & Field Championships hosted by North Central College on Friday.
Nichols was the #1 seed in the race after posting a 14:19.45 school record during the regular season. He did not disappoint today, winning with a time that set a new facility record at the Al B. Carius Track. His 14:25.08 national championship mark was fractions better than a 14:25.39 track record set by North Central's Tim Vazquez in 2016.
Scoring 10 team points for Tufts with the win, Nichol's 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. The Jumbo senior 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 was some back-and-forth lead changes, then a pair of runners from Wisconsin-Eau Claire and another from Wartburg moved into the front with five laps to go, so Nichols was chasing them in the final stretch. They made a bit of a gap to him with 600 meters to go, but he stayed calm and confident in his finishing kick. He moved into third just before the final lap, then unleashed a huge sprint in the last 150 meters to pull away from the pack.
"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."
With his first national championship, Nichols is now a four-time All-American in his career. He was third individually at the NCAA Cross Country Championships this past fall. He was also 19th at the 2016 NCAA XC Race for All-American. He had one previous track All-American finish with a sixth in the outdoor 10,000 meters last spring.
"It feels pretty cool to be a national champion," Nichols said. "I'm still trying to not get too excited in case this is all a simulation. 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 Mon from back home was at the meet."
This is the fifth NCAA title won by the Tufts men's track & field program in the last three years. Mitchell Black, a 2016 graduate, was the 800 meters champion indoors and outdoors in both 2015 and 2016.
Nichols has produced a tremendous senior year through the cross country and indoor seasons. In addition to today and taking third at Cross Country Nationals, he 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.
He will look to add on to his 2016-17 accomplishments in the NCAA 3,000 meters race tomorrow at 5:15 p.m. EST. His 8:21.51 season-best has him seeded 12th in the race.
Also on Friday, Tufts sophomore Hiroto Watanabe qualified for the finals in the 800 meter run. His 1:53.70 time was seventh out of eight qualifiers for Saturday's final (4:25 p.m.). He entered the race seeded ninth, and by making the final Watanabe is guaranteed to earn All-American honors (top eight).
Jumbo sophomore Josh Etkind ran in the NCAA 60-meter hurdles Friday. His time of 8.42 seconds in the preliminaries did not qualify for the eight-man final. He was two-tenths of a second off the 8.22 final qualifying time by Cortland's Storm Malone.
Junior Stefan Duvivier joins Nichols and Watanabe as Tufts competitors tomorrow. He is seeded second in the high jump with a school-record 6'10 ¾" (2.10m) mark.
On the strength of Nichols' win, Tufts is tied for fourth after one day at the NCAA meet with 10 points.