Niwot senior Nolan Johan was named Most Valuable Athlete for his outstanding individual performance at the 2019 Boulder County Track & Field Championships last weekend, but it was the first-ever BoCo team win for the Cougars that the hurdler was most eager to talk about in the aftermath.
“I knew I had a really good day, so in the back of my head I knew maybe it was a possibility, but it wasn’t really my main focus,” he said of the MVA award, the first for a Niwot boy since 2013. “I was just really glad we got the win in the 4x400, cause that sealed the team win. That was much more exciting. Our guys’ team is looking so much better than last year. ”
Johan was a part of that winning relay team, as well as the third-place 4x200 relay, but was sharpest in the hurdles, where he took first with personal-best times in the 110m (15.29) and 300m (40.12), a feat that Niwot head coach Maurice Henriques called “awesome.”
“There’s no way you could have told me Nolan and Jensen [Douillard] were going to be top in the state in both hurdles. Look at Nolan. I think he ran 23 seconds in the 100 hurdles his freshman year, and for him to run it in 15 low and win it and feeling like he could go even faster and into a head wind? It’s pretty exciting.”
Johan has been waiting patiently for a win at the BoCo ever since his second place finish in the 300mH two years ago. Unfortunately, that goal had to be deferred for a year, after a pulled hamstring derailed most of his 2018 season.
“It was frustrating, because I had put so much time in all year,” Johan said. “I had a really good indoor season, and it was really hard to watch from the outside and not be able to participate fully.”
He has been making up for lost time since recovering, and has a brand-new set of personal bests in 2019 to show for it. Coming into his senior season, Johan said he became more mindful of injury prevention and “started taking the weight room more seriously.” He has also stayed faithful to his new year-round training schedule, which has paid dividends in more ways than one.
“I’ve been putting in the work since August, and because of that, I’ve been expecting myself to perform well. We’ve had a nice core of guys since the fall, and we’ve just been working really hard together every day. And, during indoor, it’s not just kids from Niwot, it’s kids from the whole area. So that’s really good for improving competition both in practice and at meets.”
It has also paid dividends to the team as a whole, according to Johan.
“Freshman year was very different—we’d celebrate if one or two people scored points at a meet. It never seemed like they guys would ever come close to winning a meet.... Since Coach Christensen has come in, he’s really pushed his distance guys to train year round. They practice six days per week here or on their own. Before, on the sprint side, we really didn’t do much in the fall. There’s a lot more commitment from everyone, really.”
Off the track, Johan is in the final weeks of the IB Diploma Programme at Niwot, which hasn’t left him with much free time over the years. He is the founder of the Art Exploration Club, which he described as “an art club for people who aren’t artists.” He has also been a volunteer at the Longmont Humane Society since middle school.
Next year, he is planning to attend either CU or Augustana University in Sioux Falls, SD, though a future major is still up for debate.
For now, Johan is enjoying the final weeks of track season, and, like his coaches, Johan is excited for Niwot’s postseason outlook.
“In this last push, every meet is important. In every meet, people are getting faster because they’re starting to peak at this point. So all of these meets are really fun, because it’s high intensity and there’s really good competition every week.”