A memorable year for Niwot athletics turned into a memorable Letter of Intent signing day on May 22, as 12 athletes crowded onto the auditorium stage to make an official commitment to competing at the next level. Half of the future collegians were from the school’s track and field program, which has been among the most successful in the state over that past two seasons.
Ares Reading, Furman University
Senior year was a memorable one for Niwot distance runner Ares Reading. In October, he finished second overall at the 2018 Class 4A cross-country state championships, then followed that up with top-20 finishes in four highly competitive regional and national races, including 17th in the Nike Cross Nationals, and 19th at the Foot Locker National Championship. During the spring outdoor track season, he posted a number of personal bests as well as two top-10 finishes at the Class 4A state championships. He was also the top finisher among 18-year old boys at the 2019 Bolder Boulder on May 27.
Reading will be continuing his running career at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, which competes in the NCAA Division I Southern Conference. There he will specialize in the 5K and 10k distances, both on the track and in cross-country. Before choosing the Paladins, Reading also considered UCLA, CU-Boulder, Wake Forest, and the University of Arizona.
He said “an instant connection” with both the coaches and other runners at Furman helped tip the scales towards the 195-year-old institution.
“They have the best running program, and on my visit, they just had all the aspects that I want from a team, honestly,” he said. “It just felt at home when I was there.”
Maggie Smith, Oregon State University
Distance runner Maggie Smith has been dreaming of a career as a trauma surgeon since she was young, so when Oregon State University track and field coach Louie Quintana reached out about an opportunity to compete for the Division I program in Corvallis, the academic-minded Smith was thrilled.
“When I was first looking at colleges, I was looking at which schools had both good biology programs and good running programs, and that school came up on the list.” she said. “I talked to [Quintana] and we really clicked, so I learned more about the team, and they have a really good premed/bio program, so that really solidified the deal.”
Smith will be running both cross-country and track for OSU, located about 85 miles south of Portland in Corvallis—and will be happy at whatever distance the coaches decide is best suited to her strengths.
“I’m going to have to work my tail off and really step-up my game,” she said about the prospect of racing in the highly competitive PAC-12 Conference, home to two of the past three cross-country and track and field national champions. “The coach has recruited a lot of incoming freshman as well—girls who can run 4:46 in the mile—so I’m excited to be with that group of more competitive people across the conference and on my team.”
Erika Timbang, University of Colorado-Colorado Springs
For the past four years, sprinter Erika Timbang has been “Miss Reliable” for the Niwot girls track and field team, and has played a major role in its ongoing success. Last month, she capped off her remarkable career with a third trip to the Class 4A state championships, where she picked up two more state relay titles (4×200 and 4×400) and finally got the chance to celebrate a long-awaited team title with her fellow Cougar runners.
Timbang will get a chance to reprise her role next year at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, where she will specialize in either the 400- or 800 meter distances, and hopefully contribute to the relays. She will also be joining former teammate Alexis Carroll, who won two individual state track titles for Niwot in 2017.
“It’s a really great D-II school, and I’m excited to run there. The coaches are great, and they have a similar team culture, so I really feel like I’m going to the college version of Niwot.”
Kayla Nowlin, Western Colorado University
Kayla Nowlin isn’t a big fan of cold weather, so even she was surprised by her decision to turn down a chance to go to the University of Hawaii in order to accept an offer from Western Colorado University in Gunnison, a town consistently ranked among the nation’s chilliest.
“Western just caught my attention because of the running program there,” the speedy sprinter said. Situated at more than 7,700 hundred feet above sea-level, the campus is renowned as a high altitude training destination. The program also produced dozens of NCAA Division II champions, such as the 2004 3000-meter steeplechase winner, better known around Niwot as head cross-country coach Kelly Christensen.
“It will be good practice for when I go to lower altitudes, so I guess I’ll just have to get used to the cold,” Nowlin said.
She’s already pretty good at the lower altitudes on the Colorado’s Front Range. Like Timbang, Nowlin wrapped up her Niwot career at the 2019 Class 4A championships last month, earning state titles in the 4×200 and 4×400 relays and runner-up in the 4×100.
Ultimately, Nowlin also considered staying a little closer to home at CSU, but was finally persuaded to give cold a chance after a visit to the mountainous campus.
“The coaches were all just super sweet, and I got to meet the team, and I just felt at home. I also got to run in a track meet there, and I just had so much fun hanging out with everyone.”
Erin Carroll, Western Colorado University
Pole vaulter Erin Carroll is also headed to Gunnison to continue her track career, but unlike Nowlin, the technical event specialist doesn’t mind the climate.
“I chose Western because I love the location, and it’s not that far from home,” she said, adding that she plans to study energy management as an undergraduate. “And I actually love the cold. A lot of people don’t like it, but I love it. I’m definitely more of a cold person than a hot person.”
Carroll placed seventh overall in the pole vault at last month’s state championships, and that will be her main event at Western. She also hopes to compete for the Mountaineers in triple jump and hurdles, and is looking forward to being among more elite company.
“I think it will be a step-up from what we’re used to at Niwot, and we’re very competitive here,” she said. “But I do think it will be a good atmosphere to train in and work in, because everyone’s so good.”
Mallory Finley, Pepperdine University
Distance runner Mallory Finley will also be pursuing a collegiate running career in a highly scenic location, albeit one with a slightly lower altitude. Next year, Finley is headed to Malibu, California to run cross-country and long distance track for Pepperdine University.
“It’s right by the beach, so that’s always a plus,” she said of the Division I school, which competes in the West Coast Conference. “And I visited with the team and I really liked the culture and I really liked the coach’s coaching style. I just think it will be a really good fit for how I am as a runner.”
Finley was a four-year member of Niwot’s cross-country team, and competed for the Cougar team that won the 2018 Class 4A state title. She is planning to study Spanish and business at Pepperdine, though that’s subject to change, she admitted.
Before joining the Waves, Finley also considered offers from Western, Metro State, and Harding University in Arkansas, but ultimately,“the beach won out.”
Note: Part 2 of this article featuring six more Niwot athletes will appear next week.