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Student-athlete of the Week: Nikki Sims

Series: Student-Athlete of the Week | Story 9

October 16, 2019 | View PDF

Jocelyn Rowley

Senior Nikki Sims has been one of Niwot's more prolific hitters this season.

The Niwot softball team is headed back to the playoffs after a thrilling 2019 season that saw dramatic wins and heartbreaking losses, often in the same week. It also featured plenty of Niwot offense, as the team averaged more than 10 runs per game and recorded the highest batting average (.386) in the Northern League.

Driving that offense for the Cougars was lead-off hitter Nikki Sims, who took her production to a new level during the regular season, with career-highs in average (.521), on base percentage (.632), and a league-leading 46 runs.

While getting on base is nothing new for Sims, there was something new about her confidence this year.

"I've never been seen as a power hitter, so the coaches have never let me take full, lefty swings," she said. "This year Bobby [Matthews] told me 'You can do what you want,' so I started taking fuller swings and that helped increase my power."

Sims also has speed on her side, and used it to amass 21 stolen bases, nearly double her 2018 total of 11.

"Bobby doesn't give me steals that often, I've just been a lot more aggressive on the base paths," she said.

For ninth-year head coach Matthews, Sims isn't just a leader on offense.

"Nikki's been doing a great job all year of being a pacesetter," he said of his center fielder, who has also played second base and shortstop during her four-year tenure with the team. "And her leadership skills are better than they've ever been before. She's a leader for the whole team. She works with the JV players during practice, and takes on the role of being an example. That's been a huge asset for us."

Sims was a longtime gymnast before picking up the bat and glove in eighth grade at the urging of her father, a former baseball player who thought his daughter would be a great fit for softball. When Sims got to high school, she also joined the basketball team as a point guard and the track team as a sprinter/pole vaulter, making her one of just a handful of three-sport athletes at Niwot.

"Growing up in gymnastics, I was used to always having a sport with me, and having something to rely on as an escape from the troubles I had in life and at school," she said. "When I got to high school, I decided I had to continue that for my mental health."

According to Matthews, being a year-round athlete has added another dimension to Sims' physical talents.

"She's a phenomenal athlete, and she's in that competitive mindset year round." he said. "I think that's huge, because you have to be a competitor, and she's competing all the time. She never takes a break, she always gets after it, and I think that makes her a better player and a better pole vaulter."

It also means Sims rarely has much free time in the evenings, no matter what the season. She said getting her work done during school hours is the key to making her busy athletic schedule work with her demanding academic workload, and advised younger student-athletes to "be an advocate for yourself," when priorities clash.

"You have to communicate with your teachers and coaches. There might be times when you have to put academics first, but it's not a big deal-most coaches are pretty lenient. If you're getting too stressed out, just reach out to someone, and it should be fine.

In the classroom, Sims admitted to a "passion for math," fostered in part by Mrs. Schlagel, "who was the first teacher to ever challenge me." She also enjoyed 10th grade history with Mrs. Demmel. After graduation, Sims plans to study engineering at Clemson, Virginia Tech, or the University of Virginia, anticipating a future career in biomedical engineering.


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