When Nicole Giaquinto graduated from Winthrop High School two years ago, track coach Warren MacPhail said his record-setting sprinter would be an even bigger star at the next level.
MacPhail reasoned that with the extensive training opportunities and superior facilities that college athletes have access to â€” combined with Giaquintoâ€™s off-the-chart athletic skills, pure speed, and sheer competitiveness â€” Giaquinto would be a force in the UMass/Lowell track program.
MacPhail knew of which he spoke because Giaquinto nearly became an NCAA Division 2 All-American this year. And her college coach, Gary Gardner, says that the 5-foot-7-inch sophomore should be a strong candidate for All-American status again next year.
Giaquinto is coming off a sterling season in which she earned All-New England recognition in the 400-meter dash and qualified for the National Championships in the 4 X 400-meter relays.
It was at the Nationals in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in March where Giaquinto and her relay teammates placed ninth, just missing out on All-American honors by 0.2 seconds. The top 8 teams are named All-Americans.
Giaquinto competed in the 100 and 200-meter dashes at Winthrop High, so sheâ€™s a relative newcomer to the 400-meter scene.
â€œItâ€™s a big step â€“ itâ€™s a lot different,â€ said Giaquinto. â€œIâ€™m really not used to it yet, but Iâ€™m getting there.â€
Gardner said Giaquinto has truly emerged this year as one of the teamâ€™s top performers.
â€œI think the work she did over the summer and in the fall has really paid off,â€ said Gardner. â€œSheâ€™s had a huge improvement. Her physical strength is night and day compared to a year ago. She can probably do 50 percent more volume in her workout than she could a year ago. This is her first year running the 400 which is going to be her best event. Sheâ€™s just scratching the surface of what she can do.â€
Gardner said Giaquintoâ€™s teammates admire her and he predicts a captainship for her in the future.
â€œSheâ€™s great and easy to get along with,â€ said Gardner. â€œI think sheâ€™s going to break through as an All-American next year. Itâ€™s a real possibility.â€
Giaquinto says sheâ€™s faster now than in high school when she reigned as a Northeastern Conference champion.
â€œI think Iâ€™m faster and a lot stronger â€“ we have a lot of intense workouts here and Iâ€™m lifting weights now, which was a big change,â€ she said. â€œTraining for the 400 is a lot different than training for a short sprinting event like the 100. And the relay is definitely my favorite event.â€
Giaquinto traveled to Florida last month to compete in the Walt Disney World Invitational at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. She finished third in the 200 in a time of 25.58 seconds.
An All-Star guard during the Winthrop High girls basketball programâ€™s greatest four-year run, Giaquinto still plays the game occasionally at UMass/Lowell.
â€œI miss basketball,â€ said Giaquinto, a Deanâ€™s List student. â€œI play sometimes at the recreation center, but nothing serious. I do attend the [UMass/Lowell] womenâ€™s and menâ€™s basketball games.â€