On The Rise: An Interview With Nicki Southerland

We caught up with freshman Nicki Southerland of Delta High School who recently ran 18:15 for 5K at the Taylor University County Clash. Southerland will be a name to watch this year and for the foreseeable future! We chat about her childhood running memories, her recent performance and much more!

MileSplit Indiana: First off, thank you for chatting with us Nicki! When did you first begin running?

Nicki Southerland: I have been running races with my mom ever since I was about 5, but I started seriously training 3 years ago in 6th grade. I started out doing mile runs and triathlons, and when I was 10 years old I got to run 5k road races.

MileSplit Indiana: Before we get into more recent performances, do you have any childhood running memories?

Nicki Southerland: When I was 5, I was running a mile race and right before the finish line these older boys tried to pass me and I put my arms out so they couldn't get around me, until my mom told me I couldn't do that. I remember thinking as I put my arms straight out how easy running was, until I realized that I wasn't allowed to do that. Luckily, we knew the boys, so it was kind of funny.

MileSplit Indiana: As you are just a freshman, what has the transition from middle school to high school been like so far?

Nicki Southerland: It's been a little different getting used to the 5k distance, but having experience running 5k's before has made it easier. The more meets I run, the better I am going to get at the distance. There is also more competition in high school and the cross country meets that we are in this year are bigger than the middle school ones, so I am going to run against some really good runners.

MileSplit Indiana: As everyone knows by now, we are currently dealing with a pandemic. How have you been dealing with it in regards to your summer training and even your day to day life?

Nicki Southerland: I have been training on my own throughout the whole pandemic. I made my own workouts and ran through the neighborhoods by my house. I have been doing everything I can to stay in my running shape and I think I got even stronger during the pandemic because I had more time to work out. In June, some of the cross country runners met without a coach to run at different spots around the community. Our team has had to adapt to the new rules and regulations, but we are willing to do what it takes in order to get to have our season.

MileSplit Indiana: Let's talk about your recent performance at the Taylor University County Invitational! You ran a solo 18:15 in your first ever 5K! What was your game plan going into the race and did you think you were capable of running that time?

Nicki Southerland: Going into my race, I knew I had been working hard all summer in order to run in the low 18 minutes, but I just wanted to go out and see where I was in order to improve on it throughout the season.

MileSplit Indiana: After that performance, has your mindset changed in terms of your goals for this season?

Nicki Southerland: After that meet, I realized what I could run a 5k in. I already had some lofty goals for the season, but after running in the meet, I was able to make my goals more concrete.

MileSplit Indiana: Not only do you run XC and Track but you also play basketball. What made you want to do all three?

Nicki Southerland: I have been playing sports ever since I was 3. I have played basketball since I was 5 and I like it, so I have kept doing it. It gives me a little bit of a break in between cross country and track, where I am not running every day. It is a little busy, but I think it is fun to do three sports because then I always have something to do. I also have made a lot of friends through sports.

MileSplit Indiana: Outside of running, what are some other hobbies/interests that you have?

Nicki Southerland: I love to cook and sew. I also like to go on bike rides and do anything outdoors.

MileSplit Indiana: Who is your biggest inspiration?

Nicki Southerland: My biggest inspiration is my big brother Nate. He is 19 years old and has his own lawn care business. He works hard all day every day cutting lawns and doing yard work. He is doing great and has a lot of big jobs. He has an amazing work ethic and has always been independent. Nate also makes time for other people in his busy life. He knows how important it is to be there for people and he is always there even if it means a little inconvenience for him. Last year he drove all the way to my state cross country meet to watch me. That meant a lot to me and I want to be like him.

MileSplit Indiana: Any final comments? Shout-outs?

Nicki Southerland: I would like to give a shoutout to my Delta teammates who are super fun, encouraging, and work really hard. Also I would like to give a shoutout to my training partner Clay Batio who is an incredible runner and willing to work really hard every day. We push each other to be faster even when no one else does. I am also thankful for my great coaches, family, and friends who are always there to support me.