Nicole Giaquinto has always been a very fast runner. From her earliest days in town youth programs through her record-setting track career at Winthrop High School, sheâ€™s been a step ahead of the pack.
Perhaps more well-known locally for being the dynamic point guard with the amazing crossover dribble on a 21-0 WHS girls basketball team that was upset in the State Tournament, Giaquinto chose to continue her athletic career in track and field at the University of Massachusetts/Lowell.
Her collegiate career of eight indoor and outdoor seasons couldnâ€™t have ended in more spectacular fashion. As a result of her performance as the anchor on the 4 X 400 meter relay team, Giaquinto has earned All-American honors.
Itâ€™s a momumental achievement when you consider there are 300 schools in Division 2 and only the top eight performers in the country are selected to the All-American team.
Giaquinto, who is 5 feet, 7 inches tall, said the transition to high-level collegiate athletics wasnâ€™t easy following her career at Winthrop where she set school records and was a Northeastern Conference and Class D champion and one of the top sprinters in Massachusetts.
â€œWhen I first got to UMass/Lowell, it was completely different from high school,â€ said Giaquinto. â€œThe practices were triple the amount of work that you do in high school. You do weight training and ab work so adjusting was difficult at first. I just gradually improved each year and I finally got to the point where I was a good athlete at that level.â€
Giaquinto qualified for her first appearance at the National Championships as a sophomore, finishing ninth overall, one spot shy of All-American honors.
She competed in nationals in Albuquerque, New Mexico twice, North Carolina, Minnesota, California, and Alabama.
With her teammates depending on her as the anchor of the relay team, Giaquinto delivered her best at the 2013 National Championships in Birmingham, Alabama.
She ran a 55.9 on the final leg to help carry her team to a fourth-place finish in a time of 3:44.03, eclipsing its previous school record.
â€œWe were in the final heat so we knew we had to run a very fast time and our best race,â€ said Giaquinto. â€œI was very happy with my time. I think it was one of my best races. I go last obviously in the race so I could see the time as I was running the last straightaway. I saw 3:38 on the clock, which is extremely fast. Once I crossed the finish line, I was just standing and waiting and once they put our time on the board, I knew right away that we had gotten it and it was an amazing feeling.â€
The All-American honors followed a season in which Giaquinto won a conference championship and set the school record in the 200 meters (24.61).Â She also holds school records in the 300 meters and the 4 X 400-meter relay for the indoor and outdoor seasons.
Giaquinto credits her coaches at UMass/Lowell, Gary Gardner and Mike Ekstrand, for their instruction and their training and conditioning techniques that led to the All-American award.
â€œThe coaches do a superb job working us out and planning the training sessions,â€ said Giaquinto. â€œMy relay teammates (Shannon Cunningham of Foxboro, Elisabeth Monthy of Chartlton, and Taelour Murphy of Salisbury) and I push each other at practice. We work out together at least two to three hours every day. Weâ€™re friends outside of track as well.â€
How does she feel about having All-American affixed to her name for the rest of her life?
â€œItâ€™s an amazing feeling â€“ indescribable,â€ said Giaquinto. â€œIt was a goal the whole time, especially after my sophomore year when I understood the process. The main goal was to go to Nationals and get All-American. After finally being able to achieve it, itâ€™s so relieving.â€
Giaquinto switched from softball to outdoor track in her sophomore year at Winthrop High where Warren MacPhail became her coach and mentor.
â€œCoach MacPhail taught me a lot,â€ said Giaquinto. â€œHe scheduled extra training sessions for me and went above and beyond to help me improve. During my summers off from college, I would work with him on weight training and different running programs.â€
Giaquinto was a Deanâ€™s List student, graduating with a Bachelorâ€™s degree in Community Health. She is currently attending graduate school at UMass/Lowell and will receive a Masterâ€™s degree in Health Management.
Giaquinto said her parents have been supportive of her athletic career every quick step of the way, right to the glorious finish at the National Championships in Alabama.
â€œWhen I went on to the podium to receive my [All-American] award, I saw my parents in the stands and my mother was crying,â€ said Giaquinto. â€œIt was an amazing feeling. I felt like I was happy to do it for them as well because they supported me through all of this. Theyâ€™ve been to seven different states just watching me run and never missing a meet. And their support motivates me to want to do well.â€
Giaquinto is serving as an assistant coach in the WHS girls track program this spring.