Tracking upward – Giaquinto excels for UMass/Lowell

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 — combined with Giaquinto’s off-the-chart athletic skills, pure speed, and sheer competitiveness — 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 she’s a relative newcomer to the 400-meter scene.

“It’s a big step – it’s a lot different,” said Giaquinto. “I’m really not used to it yet, but I’m getting there.”

Gardner said Giaquinto has truly emerged this year as one of the team’s top performers.

“I think the work she did over the summer and in the fall has really paid off,” said Gardner. “She’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. She’s just scratching the surface of what she can do.”

Gardner said Giaquinto’s teammates admire her and he predicts a captainship for her in the future.

“She’s great and easy to get along with,” said Gardner. “I think she’s going to break through as an All-American next year. It’s a real possibility.”

Giaquinto says she’s faster now than in high school when she reigned as a Northeastern Conference champion.

“I think I’m faster and a lot stronger – we have a lot of intense workouts here and I’m lifting weights now, which was a big change,” she said. “Training 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.”

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 program’s greatest four-year run, Giaquinto still plays the game occasionally at UMass/Lowell.

“I miss basketball,” said Giaquinto, a Dean’s List student. “I play sometimes at the recreation center, but nothing serious. I do attend the [UMass/Lowell] women’s and men’s basketball games.”

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