Feb. 1, 2012
By Megan Morgan
SEATTLE - For triple jumper Taylor Nichols, leaving a legacy means much more than outstanding marks and championship wins. She hopes to leave a legacy that extends beyond her athletic ability---a culture that will outlive her athletic career at the University of Washington.
But don't get her wrong--she is prepared to dominate this season. With two injury-free years under her belt, Nichols says she is in the best shape of her college career. "Training has been consistent, practices have been great--I'm definitely stronger than I've ever been." She is poised and ready to take down the school record in the triple jump and possibly win some championships in the process.
As captain of the jumps squad, Nichols said she hopes to instill a sense of familial closeness within the group of jumpers. Describing herself as a sort of "mother" figure within the jump squad, Taylor noted that being captain has been extremely rewarding even with the challenges it poses. "Being a captain, I really have to watch the things I do because people are always watching me," says the native of Bakersfield, California. "I get angry in competition a lot of times, but that's been something I've been working on. Trying to maintain focus and set an example with my attitude."
Wise in her ways, Taylor has welcomed the opportunity to be the team-designated leader of the group during her fifth year at UW. After suffering a stress fracture in her back during her freshman year, Nichols was forced to redshirt. She recalls, "Sitting on the sidelines and watching people compete--that's my biggest motivation.
"These past two years, I have been pain free and that is all that I could ever ask for. It has given me the confidence to achieve the goals I want to achieve and keep moving forward." Nichols remembers feeling both inspired and determined when she was officially asked by Head Coach Greg Metcalf to return and compete for the Huskies for one last year.
"I was still deciding whether I was going to stay but when Coach Metcalf took me into his office and said they wanted me back," she says. "I felt like I was needed and had a purpose in staying one more year."
It is with this purpose that Taylor has trained herself into elite shape for the indoor season and beyond. So strong right now, that both she and Coach Pat Licari believe that the school record is only the first on a long list of accomplishments they believe Taylor capable of this season. Nichols owns an indoor personal-record of 40-7 ½, just nine inches away from the school record, and her outdoor best of 41-2 ½ is only five inches shy of topping the Washington records. With those marks will also come contention for a first NCAA Championships bid. Nichols made the West Prelims last season.
One goal coming up soon is winning the 2012 MPSF Championships, seeing as last year Nichols took second by only three inches. As for becoming the Pac-12 Champion outdoors, Taylor replied with a smile, "That's certainly a goal. I've just got to want it. And I do want it. It's just about seeing who takes the opportunity on any given day."
The epitome of utmost humility, Nichols' genuine smile and kind demeanor spoke of respect for the records she hopes to take down this season and the championships she dreams of winning. Her eyes, however, had the steady gaze of determination and quiet, unassuming confidence.
A team player in an individual sport, what Nichols cherishes most is "Our closeness, our relationship with one another--I think a goal for me is to instill that in others so that when I leave there is someone to carry it on. Even as team captain, the others are not afraid to tell me when I'm doing something wrong, and I like that. We're peers and that's what you do."
It is clear that Nichols possesses the talent, the drive, and the passion to realize her dreams this track season. But even with significant personal aspirations, her focus as team captain remains outside herself, centered in a hope for the future of the jumps program. Hope that her attitude and perseverance will be something that is remembered as much as her marks in the record books.