The Ithaca College Men’s Track and Field Team are gearing up for their next indoor season. The team has started preparing for their first full campaign since 2019 and have high expectations as the New Year approaches.
Due to the shortening of the 2021 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, only outdoor competitions have been held and the indoor conference and regional game have been canceled. These circumstances have led to this coming season being the first full year for all underclassmen.
Head Coach Jim Nichols is entering his 35th season at the helm of the program. Nichols has coached 53 All-America finishers, won a total of 33 Liberty League championships between outdoor and indoor track and field and four state titles also in between. This season, Nichols will be looking to add to his already illustrious resume.
After winning the Liberty League Coach of the Year award for the 2021 outdoor season, Nichols said he was eager to see his athletes compete.
“We have [an] program focused on the upper classes right now, âNichols said. “And they’re pretty hungry considering we didn’t have an indoor season last year.”
The outdoor track and field team just won the Liberty League conference first place, regional third place and a tie for 30e at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in May. Senior pole vaulter Dom Mikula is eager to get back into action and believes he and the team are ready for the season ahead. Mikula said he has been training for this season since August.
âI feel in the best shape of my life for this season,â said Mikula.
Mikula, the second in the 2021 All-American pole vault, holds the school record in the indoor and outdoor pole vaults at 5.11 and 5.0 meters. He’s also just wrapped up a season in which he swept the competition by appearing on the first team conference and regional roster.
Mikula said that while some may have doubts about this team, he is confident in the abilities of his teammates. He said he believes they have the potential to be a competitive squad this winter.
âI think we’re a sneakily dangerous team,â Mikula said. “Not many teams are going to look at us and say ‘this team is going to win.'”
Among the returning veterans, the Bombers will look to Mikula and hurdles junior Nate Oczkowski to make their mark. Oczkowski, a 2021 NCAA qualifier in the 400–meters hurdles, believes the team has the leaders to do a deep race.
âI bring out the best in my teammates, so it’s important to develop this greater leadership role within the team,â Oczkowski said.
Oczkowski goes out of his way to keep his body in top shape, spending most of his time in the offseason focusing on all parts of his body, while keeping his legs in peak condition.
âI went to the gym, which was a big priority for me personally,â Oczkowski said. “Who [included] lifting weights, so that I can get bigger, faster and stronger overall.
Oczkowski said he knows the preparation is more than just physical, but also mental. He enjoys working on the impact of his mind on his run when he is resting.
âI qualified for the national championships last year, but that was last season,â Oczkowski said. âRight now I really want to focus on the present.
Mikula, just like Oczkowski, keeps her mind just as locked–like his body, as his mental focus plays a vital role in his success, which helps him to be a leader for the team on and off the track. Mikula said he likes to create a quiet place for himself before games.
âI like going throughâ¦ my pre-competition routine before the competition even starts,â said Mikula. âThere are a lot of visual rehearsals. Just visually go down and run on the track.
This combination of physical and mental balance greatly contributes to the success of the athletics team, as it is recognized as an important role in winning. Nichols said he sees the effort his athletes put in, which is why he doesn’t take his job for granted. He said he appreciates the support his athletes give him every day.
âIt’s a privilege to be a coach,â said Nichols. âOur greatest asset is our student-athletes. The biggest thing we have in our program are the athletes. ”
Nichols appreciates his athletes not just because of the success they have on the track, but because of the positive characteristics they represent on campus and in their lives. He said the team honors respect and what is needed to positively impact everyone around them.
âThese are the types of athletes who are in the program,â Nichols said. âGuys who keep doing all the little things it takes to be successful, not just as athletes, but as students as well as individuals on campus.
The men’s track team has started training and will open its season at 10 a.m. on December 4 at the Greg Page Cornell Relays in Ithaca.