SILVERDALE — It was a freshman year to remember for Central Kitsap’s Maya Nichols.
As a ninth grader, she burst on to the Washington cross country scene with a ninth place finish at the 3A state meet in Pasco, but that was just the icing on the cake to a successful season.
Nichols was dominant at the South Sound Conference league championships at Fort Steilacoom, posting a 19:06 time that placed her five seconds ahead of teammate Molly Fischer and a full minute faster than another teammate, Sophia Kohler. At the district meet at Chambers Bay, she beat out Emily Phelps by 1.2 seconds to capture another first place finish. Her time of 18:24.40 at state is a school record and left her just half a second short of a Top Five finish.
So, what does Nichols do for an encore as a sophomore?
“I want to, hopefully, get around where I was last year,” Nichols said after a recent league meet. “Some improvement from my PR (personal record). That’s my main goal, just to PR again.”
The cross country postseason will be here next week, and Nichols is trending in the right direction to defend her league and district crowns.
She and her teammates will take on the South Sound Conference on Thursday, Oct. 18 at Fort Steilacoom Park. The following Saturday, Oct. 27, is the Westside Classic, the West Central District 3 championships, at Chambers Bay. That all leads to the 3A state meet on Nov. 10 at Sunwillows Golf Course in Pasco.
Nichols dropped an 18:39.30 at the Nike Hole in the Wall Invitational on Oct. 6 after posting an 18:56.60 at the 20th annual Fort Steilacoom Invitational; both times were better than her league championship performance. She also won the North Thurston Ramrock 5K but was able to ease back on the throttle as her 20:18.60 was 26 seconds better than second place.
“My time at our meet at Fort Steilacoom was about the same as my time that I ran last year,” Nichols said. “So that gives me hope that I’ll be able to get back where I was.”
This year, she isn’t the only member of the Nichols family toeing the starting line for the Cougars. Her younger sister, Taylor, is enjoying a fine freshman year, breaking 20 minutes twice in the 5,000 meters, including a 19:38.50 at Hole in the Wall. Clearly, talent runs in the family.
But head coach Jeremy Duplissey, who has taken over the program this year from Chris Baldus, has been thoroughly impressed with Nichols’ work ethic both over the summer and during racing season.
“Success is no secret — she puts in the hard work, she’s dedicated,” Duplissey said. “There’s talent involved, but she works hard.”
— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MKrulishKDN.