Not running in place
Qualifying for nationals a first for CMU's Niksic
When he enrolled at Colorado Mesa University, Shane Niksic wasn’t sure if there was a men’s track and field program.
Now, the sophomore is the Mavericks’ first national qualifier.
Niksic will compete in the 800-meter run Friday and Saturday at the NCAA Division II National Championships in Birmingham, Ala.
He is ranked 11th out of 17 qualifiers. If he is one of the top eight finishers in prelims, he will race in the finals Saturday.
“I’m really excited,” Niksic said. “The whole year I knew I was going to be close, but I didn’t know if I’d be there. With my first open meet I qualified with a provisional, but we knew it wasn’t going to be fast enough by the end of the season. We knew we had to keep moving it up, and that’s what we did.”
Niksic ran a time of 1 minute, 58 seconds last year in the indoor 800. He knocked it down to 1:53 at the first meet this season and shaved a second off it since then.
“To get one guy in, especially a guy like this that did so much work …,” CMU coach Matt Canterbury said. “He did exactly what he said he was going to do this year.”
Niksic came to Mesa for its exercise science program, complete with the Monfort Performance Lab, but track was an uncertainty.
“I was interested in track, but I didn’t know if I’d be fast enough,” he said. “I didn’t know necessarily how fast I needed to be.
“Every week I was hearing something different. They were going to (have a track program), then not going to. With the lab, I have something no other undergrad program has across the country. I get way more of an advantage. That helps our team with the science base behind it.”
His first year, Niksic joined the cross country team just in case. When the spring rolled around, he paid his own entry fee to compete in track meets.
The team started officially during his second year, but it didn’t have enough people to compete in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Championships.
This year, there were enough, but he needed to put in more offseason work.
“He was a mid-distance runner trying to run cross country,” Canterbury said. “He runs cross country for the aerobic strength it provides. It makes a huge difference. We challenged him to rededicate himself in the summer. Coming out of high school, he didn’t run very many miles.”
Niksic pushed the limit with overuse injuries, but he recovered in time for the indoor season, where he thrived.
“You can expect to run almost two seconds faster outdoors for an 800-meter,” Canterbury said. “Shane isn’t huge. He doesn’t have a huge stride, so it actually lends itself to running quicker.”
An indoor track is about half the size of an outdoor track (200 meters shorter).
Niksic placed third in the RMAC Indoor Championships in 1:55.54. He also ran a leg of the distance medley relay that ran a provisional time at the RMAC Championships. The other relay members were Mike Petrich, Alex Quintanat and John Cusak. They placed fourth at the RMAC meet.
Freshman Jordan Riggins ran a provisional time in the 200, but he was not among the top 16 to be selected for nationals.
The Mavericks placed fifth out of eight teams.
“I’m glad the way it turned out,” Niksic said. “It’s been a lot of fun.”