The automobile accident left Nikki Hay doubting whether she would run again. She banged her head and hurt her back when a driver clipped her from behind as she drove from Massachusetts to Norwalk late last summer. The hit-and-run spent the car the Springfield College senior was driving spinning into a guardrail on Interstate 91, and left her future in limbo.
Fortunately for Hay, the injuries were only temporary. She has recovered to make the most of her final year, winning the NCAA Division III triple jump championship. At the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference championships last weekend, she won four individual events and anchored a winning relay team. In October, as she wrestled with injuries from the accident, there's no way she could have envisioned such an ending.
"I was at a point where I was thinking I was going to have to give it up,'' Nikki says. During one workout, her coach asked her to run five 300 meters. She could only run two. She experienced headaches whenever she ran. "I couldn't move,'' Hay remembers. "I broke down and cried." She returned a few days later and hasn't looked back. "It's a crazy story,'' Hay says. "I look back and sometimes I can't believe it."
Hay's best senior moment to date came at the NCAA meet in March. She finished third in the triple jump on Friday while fighting tendinitis in her right knee. In Saturday's triple jump, she soared 39 feet, 3 ¾ inches to win the event. "I didn't think I was going to win at all,'' Nikki says. "It was just icing on the cake."
In last Saturday's league championships, Hay won the 100, 200, long jump and triple jump. She also anchored the 4 x 100 relay team to victory in school record time. The tendinitis still bothers her, especially in the jumps. She hopes to manage the pain well enough to reach the national championship meet in late May. Her primary objective is to win with her relay team. "That's definitely my goal,'' Hay says. "Taking them there and having them with me, so that they can experience it, that's my goal."
After graduation Hay expects to take time off from competing "My body needs a little break,'' she says and will return to Springfield to get a Master's degree. She'll also be a graduate assistant to coach Jim Pennington. "I can't leave track alone,'' Hay says.