LAURA Nicholson wants to end her year on a high with a good showing at the European Cross-Country Championships this Sunday.
The 18-year-old Bandon AC athlete recently finished fourth in the women’s U18 and U20 4,000m at the national cross-country championships held in Abbotstown. That earned her a place on the Ireland women’s U20 team for this Sunday’s Europeans in the Dutch city of Tilburg.
Last year was Laura’s first experience of the European Cross-Country Championships and she finished 39th. Her target this weekend is to better last year’s performance.
‘I wasn’t too happy with it, I guess it was okay for my first year at cross-country but I want to better that this weekend,’ she says.
The Bandon Grammar Leaving Cert student feels fresh and Sunday’s race will be only her fourth cross-country event of the season. She’s coming off the back of a track and field season that saw her run a 1500m PB after missing three months at the start of the year through injury.
It’s been a year of change for Laura. Her coach Steve Macklin moved to Doha at the end of the summer to take up a head endurance coach position at the Aspire Academy. Macklin still coaches Laura from his new base, they talk once a week on the phone, and she also trains under David McCarthy, who now looks after her work-outs and races.
Another big change is a still some distance down the track but it won’t be long coming either, as Laura will move to Philadelphia at the end of the August 2019 to begin an athletics scholarship with Temple University.
Laura will link up with the university’s women’s cross country and track and field programme, and it’s a move she hopes will help her reach the next level.
‘I think it is the the best move for me,’ she says.
‘I am predominantly training with boys here now but we are not doing running sessions together because we run at different paces.
‘To have a training group of girls to train with, who are a similar age and similar standard to me is something I am really looking forward to.’
Laura and her father spent two days at Temple University at the end of August and they were impressed by what the saw.
‘We looked at a couple of college, saw the set-ups and met the people – and from there I made the decision about which one I could see myself at, training with, going to college,’ Laura says.
‘It’s important that the environment is right, and it is there. You can do anything you want wherever you want but for me, basing myself in Philadelphia for these few years will make it more enjoyable.
‘The facilities there are very impressive. It’s a university that looks after its student athletes too. It’s right in the city of Philadelphia and I like that. You can always do other things to get your head away from just running and school. There is loads to do there.’
Laura spent time with Temple University’s head cross-country coach James Snyder and head track and field coach Elvis Forde, and she felt it’s the right place for her to develop as an athlete.
Before that, matters closer to home take precedence, starting with the Europeans this Sunday.